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Washington Court May Consider Post-Secondary Educational Support of Another Child

A court may order support for postsecondary educational expenses in a Washington child support order.  The court has discretion in determining if and for how long to order support.  The court must base its determination on the consideration of certain factors, including the child’s age, the child’s needs, the parties’ expectations while they were together, the child’s abilities, what type of education the child is pursuing, and the parent’s education, standard of living and resources.  The court should also consider how much support the parents’ would have provided if they stayed together.  The court is not, however, limited to the stated factors. RCW 26.19.090.

A father recently challenged a court’s denial of his request for postsecondary educational expenses for his younger daughter.  According to the appeals court’s unpublished opinion, the parties divorced in 2005.  They have two children together, 21 and 19 years old.  The child support order reserved the right to petition for postsecondary support as long as it was done before termination of support.  Postsecondary educational support was not ordered for the older child, but the father petitioned for postsecondary educational support for the younger child before she graduated high school. The mother did not join in the petition, arguing she was providing postsecondary educational support for the older child without help from the father.

The commissioner denied the father’s petition, finding the mother had contributed most of the support while the daughters were children and continued to support the older daughter while she was in college. The father moved for revision.

The judge found both parties had supported the children but also found it was appropriate to consider the mother’s postsecondary educational support of the older daughter in deciding whether to award it for the younger daughter. The court denied the revision for postsecondary educational support.

The father appealed, arguing the court was wrong in finding it appropriate to consider the older daughter’s postsecondary support and, in the alternative, that substantial evidence did not support a finding the mother was supporting the older daughter.  The appeals court pointed out that the statute states that a trial court is “not limited” to the listed factors. RCW 26.19.090. The appeals court noted the legislature specifically allowed trial courts discretion in considering additional factors and found that postsecondary support for another child was “a reasonable consideration.”  There was therefore no error in the court’s consideration of the mother’s postsecondary educational support of the parties’ other child.

The father also argued the court’s finding the mother provided postsecondary educational support was not supported by substantial evidence. The mother had provided a statement reflecting an $18,000 loan from “College Ave Student Loans” with an $11,823.08 balance.  The statement did not name the borrower, but the mother’s name was on the statement and she offered a declaration that stated she obtained the loan for the older daughter’s educational expenses. The father had not offered contradictory evidence. The appeals court found there was sufficient evidence to support a finding by a rational person that the mother obtained the loan to provide support for the older daughter’s education.

The appeals court found no abuse of discretion by the trial court and affirmed its denial of the father’s motion for revision.

If you are seeking or opposing postsecondary educational support, you need an experienced Washington child support attorney on your side.  Contact Blair & Kim, PLLC, to schedule a consultation. Call us at (206) 622-6562.

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