Renton Washington Family Law Criminal Defense and Estate Planning Attorney

Serving Renton, Kent, Seattle, Bellevue, Federal Way, Burien and south King County.

Please visit our web page at http://www.mgrlaw.com for more information.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Post Secondary Education Expense


With high school graduations taking place, it it time to consider the issue of paying for college expenses. In Washington, the court does not have the authority to order a married couple to pay for the children's college education, it is left up to the parents to decide, what if any, contribution to make.

In the event of a divorce, the court has the authority to determine post-secondary education. It is basically the continuation of child support beyond age 18 or graduation from high school, although the method of computation is different. The first issue the court must decide, is whether or not to order it. Factors the court considers is whether the parents went to college and whether they would have contributed had there not been a divorce. In most cases today, the court orders the parents to contribute.

The second issue, is how much the parties must pay. There is not a set formula, it is up to the parties to agree, or the court to determine what is reasonable. Typically, the court will cap the expense at the cost of attending the University of Washington. This way the child can attend any school they want, but if they go out of state or to private school, the parents are not obligated to pay beyond the cost of the local public institution. If the child attends a lesser expensive institution, the actual cost would be used. The court will usually use the posted cost of attendance at the institution for tuition, room and board, fees, transportation and personal expenses.

The big issue is frequently how to split the expense. It is typically split between the parents based upon their comparative net incomes. The bigger question is typically how much, if any, the child should pay. The answer depends upon the trial judge, it all depends.

It is important to remember that you must make a formal court request for post-secondary education support before the underlying obligation of support terminates.

The Renton law firm of Mogren, Glessner & Roti, represents clients in a variety of family law cases, including post secondary education and Child Support Modification actions. Please visit our web page at http://www.mgrlaw.com/ for more information.

1 comment:

  1. Question? Didn't the WA Appellate Courts hold in In re Marriage of Shellenberger (citing Stern and Vander Veen) that a "trial court should not require objecting parents of modest means to pay for private college where the child can obtain a degree in his or her chosen field at a publicly subsidized institution." 80 Wn. App. 71, 85, 906 P.2d 968 (1995).

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