Father helping his son get ready for college

Does Child Support Continue Through College in Texas?

Parents can experience tremendous joy in supporting their children throughout their adolescence. From a legal perspective in Texas, your obligation expires when your child reaches the age of majority, which is 18 years old.

For many parents, this legal situation raises the question, “Does child support continue through college in Texas?” The short answer is, “Probably not.”

The default legal rule ends child support payments when the child turns 18. However, parents can agree to share college costs, supporting their children while they work on their college degrees. Let’s dive into how this might work in your situation.

When Does Child Support Officially Terminate?

Child support obligations can come from a divorce decree or paternity order. These orders determine a child support amount based on several factors, including:

  • The child’s needs
  • The parents’ resources
  • The number of other children
  • The custody arrangement

When the child is in elementary, middle, or high school, the child will live with one parent while attending school. The other parent typically has joint physical and legal custody. However, since the child lives with one parent for a larger part of the year, the court may order the other parent to pay child support to ensure both parents equally support the child.

A Texas child support order will last until the child reaches the age of 18. The court can extend the child support order past 18 years of age under a few situations, including when the child:

  • Attends high school but has not yet graduated
  • Has a physical or mental disability

Thus, for practical purposes, the child support order for a child with disabilities will last indefinitely until the child can earn a living. The child support order for a child without disabilities will last until the child reaches 18 years or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later.

Thinking Through a College Support Agreement

So, does child support continue through college in Texas? No, attending college is not a recognized ground in the Texas Family Code for extending a child support order past the age of 18. This means that a court cannot force a parent to support a child over age 18 while attending college.

If one parent chooses not to help their child, neither the child nor the other parent can petition a court to order them to provide support.

However, nothing prevents unmarried or divorced parents from agreeing to share the child’s expenses while attending college, including:

  • Food
  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Tuition
  • Books and supplies

Parents could request an agreement in the divorce or paternity order if your child is close to attending college. Or, you can simply wait to work out the terms when the child support order ends or when your child enters college.

Keep in mind that a child support order and a college support agreement differ in enforcement. Falling behind on child support comes with many potential consequences, including:

  • Jail
  • Driver’s license suspension
  • Wage garnishment
  • Property liens

Violating a college support agreement is simply treated as a breach of contract. The parties to the agreement can sue for damages, but the penalties imposed on parents who violate a child support arrangement would not apply.

Does Child Support Continue Through College in Texas: Find Legal Support

From a strictly legal perspective, the answer to the question, “Does child support continue through college in Texas?” is “no.” Child support in Texas will end when the child turns 18 – whether the child attends college or not.

But, as parents of adult children will tell you, the responsibility to care for your child simply moves on to a new season. Your child may be a legal adult, but they will likely require financial support paying for college.

An experienced family law attorney can help you identify alternatives to child support that may be able to help you cover college expenses for your child, such as a college support agreement.

If you are a parent who is concerned about child support expiring, reach out to our helpful team right away. We currently support parents in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, Galveston County, and Matagorda County. If you live in one of these counties, let’s talk.

You can reach our family law firm at 979-267-7660 (Angleton office) or 281-944-5485 (Sugar Land office) to speak with a local attorney. We look forward to helping you transition to the next stage of supporting your child during college.