In a Washington child support case, the court may order the payment of post-secondary educational support for a dependent child. The support is conditioned on the child enrolling in an accredited academic or vocational school, pursuing education in line with his or her vocational goals, and remaining in good academic standing. If these conditions are not met, the support is suspended. Additionally, the child must make his or her academic records available to both parents.
A mother recently challenged an order for past due post-secondary support, arguing her daughter had not complied with the statutory requirements. The court had entered a child support order regarding post-secondary support of the parties’ daughter that required the mother to pay 66.3 percent of the child’s post-secondary education support. To receive the support, the daughter had to meet the requirements of RCW 26.19.090(4), which requires the child to make all grades and academic records available to both parents as a condition of receiving the support.
The father moved for contempt for past due post-secondary support in 2017. He submitted proof of expenses and enrollment records. The mother said she called to pay tuition, but the Registrar’s Office informed her they could not give her access to any information due to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). They told her students were told they must grant access for anyone else to have access to their account.
The court found the mother owed more than $20,000. The mother moved for reconsideration, again stating she could not make the payment because her daughter had not granted her access. The mother did not present evidence that she had asked her daughter for access. The court denied the motion for reconsideration and the mother appealed.
RCW 26.19.090(4) requires the child to “make available all academic records and grades to both parents as a condition of receiving post-secondary educational support.” The mother argued RCW 26.19.090(4) required her daughter to provide access to all academic records and grades as a condition of receiving the support. The mother argued this was required even if the parent has not requested the access. She argued there was no evidence her daughter had given consent for her to have access to the records and grades and that consent was a condition for her to receive post-secondary support. She argued, then, that the court abused its discretion by awarding the past due support because her daughter had not met the condition for support.
The appeals court considered a previous case in which the court found the statute did not require the child to provide or give the information to the parent without being asked to do so. The mother in the current case did not provide any evidence that she had requested access to the records from her daughter or that her daughter withheld consent. In fact, there was evidence in the record showing the daughter had provided her student ID, social security number, grades, spreadsheets, and proof of expenses.
This case shows that a parent will not be discharged of the obligation to pay post-secondary support just because the child has not provided records or consent to access records on his or her own initiative. The parent must request the records or consent to access. If you have a child support issue, an experienced Washington child support attorney at Blair & Kim, PLLC, can help. Call us at (206) 622-6562.