College is a privilege, not a right.

Postsecondary Educational Support

How to ask for, or defend against, postsecondary educational support awards.

Did you know that orders of child support in Washington can order one or both parents to contribute to their child’s college tuition costs, room/board, and related expenses?  RCW 26.19.090 is the statute addressing the standards for postsecondary educational support awards in Washington.

In determining whether the court will order postsecondary educational support, the court will take into account the following factors:

  1. Whether the child is in fact dependent and relying upon the parents for the reasonable necessities of life;
  2. The age of the child;
  3. The child’s needs;
  4. The expectations of the parties for the children when the parents were together;
  5. The child’s prospects, desires, aptitudes, abilities, or disabilities
  6. The nature of the postsecondary education sought;
  7. The parents’ level of education, standard of living, and current and future resources;
  8. The amount and type of support that the child would have been afforded if the parents had stayed together.

The court has discretion in determining whether and for how long to award postsecondary educational support based on the foregoing factors.  In a typical case, the court will not award postsecondary educational support past the age of twenty-three or when the child earns his/her bachelor’s degree, whichever occurs first.

In Thurston County, the Commissioner wants to see proof of acceptance from the college where the child will be attending and the actual financial need of the child.  It is typical that the Commissioner will order the child to pay 1/3 of the college expenses, and the remaining 2/3 to be split proportionally between the parents based on their incomes.  The child will receive credit towards his/her 1/3 share for any scholarships, grants, or work-study programs.  The Commissioner typically caps the financial obligations of the parties to the costs of an in-state resident attending the University of Washington.

The child must provide his/her academic records and grades to both parents, must be enrolled in an accredited school, must be actively pursuing a course of study in line with the child’s goals, and must be in good academic standing with the school in order to continue receiving help with college costs.  The Commissioner can also order that the parties continue to provide their child with medical and car insurance coverage while attending college.  Other related expenses that can be ordered include student fees, meal plans, room/board, supplies, and books.

Not every child has the hopes, aptitudes, and desires to attend college, and not every parent has the financial needs available to help pay for their child’s postsecondary educational needs.  Defend or enforce your rights by consulting with Megan Card about postsecondary educational support awards.

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