Headed To College? What Happens To Your Child Support?

In this day and age many parents face the prospect of funding a college education for their child. After scholarships are applied for and loans considered, parents often end up footing the remainder of the bill. At the same time, child support in Washington typically ends when a child graduates from high school. In order to reconcile these two issues, Washington allows for post-secondary support.

What Is Post Secondary Support?

Post secondary support is court ordered child support specifically meant to allow a child to continue their education after high school. It can include support for trade schools, vocational schools, a traditional four-year college, or possibly even graduate school.

Post secondary support typically covers things such as tuition, housing expenses, health insurance, and any other needs that a child may have when they are completing their education.

Is Post Secondary Support Mandatory?

Post-secondary support is not mandatory. It is a discretionary decision made by a judge when a parent or child requests it. Typically it is not included in an initial child support order, but “reserved” for future consideration. When a child decides to go on to additional education, this constitutes a substantial change in circumstances that justifies changing the support order.

As an initial matter, a child must still be a dependent in order to receive post-secondary support. This means the child must still be relying on his parents to provide necessities such as food and shelter. If a child is financially independent, perhaps living on his own with a full time job, the court is unlikely to award support.

After the court finds the child dependent, it can then look to a variety of factors to consider post-secondary support. These include:

  • What the parents’ educational expectations were for the child
  • The parents’ own degrees and levels of education
  • The financial resources of the parents
  • The child’s plans, hopes, and dreams
  • The type of education the child is seeking

Based on these factors, a court can then award or deny post-secondary support. Parents will be required to make these payments as long as the child is pursuing his or her education. However, Washington law states that parents cannot be ordered to pay for education after a child’s 23rd birthday.

Are There Any Requirements For The Child?

Parents footing the bill for post-secondary support may be worried about how the money will be used and whether their child can be kept accountable. For this reason, Washington law imposes two requirements on a child receiving post-secondary support.

First, the child must give parents full access to all academic records and transcripts. This allows the parent to monitor the child’s performance and ensure that he or she is meeting the requirements of school.

Second, the child must remain enrolled in an educational institution, actively pursue an education that fulfills career goals, and maintain good academic standing. If a child fails to meet any of these requirements, or fails to give parents access to school records, post-secondary support can be suspended.

Washington Attorneys Can Help You Plan for Ongoing Child Support

If you anticipate that your children will attend college, it may be good to set up a plan for post-secondary support from the start. Even for those who are not sure, it pays to have a plan in place in the event a request for post-secondary support is made. At Bolan Law Group., our family law attorneys are available to answer any questions you may have on post-secondary support. For more information, contact us online or at (253) 470-2356

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