As many of us know, the days of parents’ financial support of their children ending on the child’s eighteenth birthday is largely a thing of the past. These days, whether divorced or not, many people are supporting their adult children through college or technical school (at least). In divorced families, it is often necessary and helpful to have a court order dividing the financial burden of supporting adult children through postsecondary schooling. (Please note, there are other grounds for requesting the continuation of child support into adulthood not based on anticipated college or technical school – this blog entry does not cover those grounds.)
Sometimes (especially if ordered in close proximity to the time the child will be leaving high school or turning eighteen), postsecondary support is ordered as part of the original order of child support. However, in most cases we see, the issue is reserved and will require further action by one of the parents to create an obligation to share costs. If it looks like your child is college or technical school bound, and your spouse would be able to assist with the financial burden of your child’s schooling it is important that you be proactive in obtaining a court order requiring that your former spouse assist you and/or your child with postsecondary expenses.
Washington law refers to post-high school financial assistance as postsecondary educational support. This support can include the tuition cost of college or technical school as well as the cost for housing, books, and fees. In determining whether to award postsecondary educational support (and if so, how much), the court considers the factors set forth in RCW 26.19.090.
If one of your children is going to turn eighteen or graduate from high school in the near future, parents should consider whether the child will need financial support as the child enters the next stage of his or her life. If so, post-secondary education support must be sought prior to the expiration of child support for that child per the original order of child support.