post secondary education costs

Who Pays for College?

Goldberg Jones Child Support 8 Comments

Graduating high school is a right of passage that is often accompanied by the excitement of going off to college. This milestone is often marked by optimism and enthusiasm and is a pivotal time for students. Unfortunately, that optimism and enthusiasm can wane when the reality of paying for college sets in.

Are You Required to Pay For Postsecondary Education?

The financial obligation for Washington postsecondary support is felt by both student and parents—meeting this obligation can become even more complex when the parents are divorced.

When trying to determine what your responsibilities are in regards to paying for your child’s college or technical schooling, the best place to start is with your existing Child Support Order.

In Washington State, child support is paid until the child either turns 18 or graduates High School (whichever occurs later). The support obligation can be extended to cover post-secondary education, but this is not automatic or guaranteed.

It is possible the topic of postsecondary support was addressed when the Child Support Order was created. If it was, there will be a section that outlines what each parent’s obligation is.

If postsecondary support was not addressed in your Child Support Order, it can still be revisited.

How To File A Petition For Postsecondary Support

Either parent can file for postsecondary support as long as that petition is filed prior to the child’s eighteenth birthday or their high school graduation (whichever occurs later).

In Washington state the recipient of postsecondary support must meet specific criteria to remain eligible.

Namely, the child must be enrolled in an accredited academic or vocational school and be in good academic standing (as is defined by the institution).

Additionally, it is important to note that court-ordered postsecondary support can be automatically suspended if the student fails to comply with theses conditions.

The child support schedule shall be advisory and not mandatory for postsecondary educational support.

When considering whether to order support for postsecondary educational expenses, the court shall determine whether the child is, in fact, dependent and is relying on the parents for the reasonable necessities of life.

What Are The Standards For Postsecondary Support?

The standards for Washington postsecondary support are outlined in RCW 26.19.090 and include:

  • The court shall exercise its discretion when determining whether and for how long to award postsecondary educational support based upon consideration of factors that include but are not limited to the following:
  • Age of the child,
  • the child’s needs;
  • the expectations of the parties for their children when the parents were together;
  • the child’s prospects, desires, aptitudes, abilities or disabilities;
  • the nature of the postsecondary education sought; and the parents’ level of education,
  • standard of living, and current and future resources, and
  • the amount and type of support that the child would have been afforded if the parents had stayed together.
  • The child shall also make available all academic records and grades to both parents as a condition of receiving postsecondary educational support. Each parent shall have full and equal access to the postsecondary education records
  • The court shall not order the payment of postsecondary educational expenses beyond the child’s twenty-third birthday, except for exceptional circumstances, such as mental, physical, or emotional disabilities.
  • The court shall direct that either or both parents’ payments for postsecondary educational expenses be made directly to the educational institution if feasible. If direct payments are not feasible, then the court in its discretion may order that either or both parents’ payments be made directly to the child if the child does not reside with either parent.
  • If the child resides with one of the parents the court may direct that the parent making the support transfer payments make the payments to the child or to the parent who has been receiving the support transfer payments.

Washington postsecondary support can sometimes come as a surprise. If you have children it is prudent to understand your obligation well before your child(ren) enroll in higher education.

Comments 8

  1. I have a son who is almost 28 years old, I have been paying child support since he was born. When my son was 17 I refinancedon’t my home and there was a child support lean, the child support lean was paid of leaving a zero balance but my son turned 17 in November and at the end of the school year he dropped out of high school I was still paying child support up until his 18th birthday then I stopped paying and the courts said I had arrears now and I have ongoing support now I have two payments arrears and on going, my son was not in school but his mom told them he was, so when I told them she is full or crap they said prove it, I said if I have to pay support I want to see grades and I want a full report to make sure he is going to school. The child support case worker told me they do not have to tell me what school he is in rolled in or what his grades are or any information as long as he is going to school and living at home this is been bs after he turned 25 I said what the he’ll is going on why am I still paying back support and on going support? The case worker told me I still had to keep paying g until he graduates I said this is pure bs there has to be somekind of cut off how many years does it take to make up his senior project he only had his senior project when he dropped out. The case worker was a real ass she told me I would have to pay until he graduated even if he was 35 years old and after that he can enroll in college and I would have to continue to pay until he graduated form college, I said no way he could be 50 years old, and the case worker said or older. This is pure shit, I have no grades no school info no info at all I said I am not paying g anymore untill I have proof of all this because I believe this is pure harassment and this is harassment since day one. They say I have to give them a daily diary of each day what I do this has been going on for 27 years this is worse then probation this is not right and they threw me in jail several times they have my drivers license suspended and my passport tied up my car my house my life, its even worse then this it’s criminal. My son wrote a letter that he was not living at home and he never went to school. Now they tell me the mother has to agree to stop child support but she won’t,,what the he’ll. My own son says she is full of crap.

    1. Post

      That’s a tough situation, Matthew. I passed it along to our managing attorney, Ken Alan, and he should contact you. If you like, you can also give us a call at (206) 448-1010.

  2. If it’s on the original divorce papers that the parents have to pay for secondary education, is there a way to get it that the parents can pay if they so choose?

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      Hi Kellie. Thanks for reaching out. I passed your contact information along to our managing attorney, Ken Alan. He’ll contact you shortly and be able to answer your question. Thanks!

    1. Post

      Hey Doug, thanks for reaching out. That’s a complicated question and a lot depends on your specific situation. I passed your contact information along to our managing attorney, Ken Alan, and he will contact you with a more in-depth answer.

  3. I have four children. A son who is 27. daughter 18, another daughter who is 17, and my youngest daughter who is 12.

    I’ve been paying child support faithfully since their Mom and I split in 2013 in the amount of 1,200.00 per month until my eldest daughter turned 18 and graduated from high school.

    She took some time after graduation to decide on military service or college. Because of this I stopped paying child support for her because she graduated and was not enrolled in college.

    In October she enrolled at the University of Washington.

    It is my understanding that at 18 or after that age, support is for education. My ex wife believes I’m supposed to continue to pay her child support to her because our eldest daughter continues to live at home.

    After reading the RCW this doesn’t appear to be true. Since she’s enrolled I’ve bought her books and will be making a payment for half of the remaining balance for her tuition that her student loan does not cover.

    Lastly there isn’t anything in our divorce decree about post secondary education.

    There was no expectation when we were married of either her nor any of our children that we’d pay for college. The expectation we as Mom and Dad was that it was the child’s responsibility to pay for their education through scholarships or military service.

    This is what our son did in 2010 by joining the US Army much like my ex wife and I did to pay for our education.

    What should I do?

    1. Post

      Hi Tony, thanks for reaching out. That’s a complicated situation with a ton of moving parts. I passed your contact information on to Ken Alan, our managing attorney. He will reach out to you soon and give you a better idea of your options and how we can help!

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