How to Receive College Payment Support from Your Ex-Spouse

Congratulations! Your daughter graduated from high school a few months ago, and you’re so proud of her for graduating as an honors student. It seems like just yesterday that she embarked on her first day of kindergarten, and it’s only a matter of weeks until you drop her off at the dorm. You want to be able to financially support her in undergraduate school (and, possibly, beyond), but you need help from your former spouse.

There’s a problem, however. You’ve spoken to your ex about your daughter’s secondary education already and they are not interested in contributing one dime. He or she might point out that they never went to college and did just fine. Your daughter will be fine, too. If she really does want to go, why not tell her she has to pay for her own tuition by working part-time or waiting a year to save the money?

When parents divorce, they often address the matter of future college tuition in the settlement agreement so that they can open a 529 plan and start saving. If it was overlooked and one parent refuses to financially contribute once the child is ready for post-secondary education, Washington law allows the other parent to ask the courts to intervene. 

Petitioning the Court for Tuition Expenses

Washington is one of the states where child support orders can be in effect up until the age of 23 as long as the child is attending a post-secondary institution and still financially dependent on their parents. 

When considering whether a noncustodial parent should have to contribute to college or vocational school expenses, the court will consider the following:

  • Are both parents able to contribute financially?
  • Will the child be able to apply for scholarships or financial aid?
  • Will the child have the time or ability to work while in school?
  • How well is the child doing at school now and what are their future aspirations?

It is important to remember that the court encourages both parents to voluntarily contribute what they can to college expenses. It will not generally hold a noncustodial parent responsible for covering a post-secondary education if it is genuinely beyond their means. It also discourages custodial parents from deciding to send the child to an expensive school without receiving input from the other parent.

When to Petition

If you and your spouse did not discuss post-secondary education costs at the time of the divorce and they refuse to help, you must petition for a modification before the existing support obligation ends. In Washington state, this usually must be done before your child turns 18 and/or finishes high school. In other words, if you wait until the support obligation has ended before you petition, the court has no more authority in the matter. If your divorce decree did not specify when child support ends for your child, it will end when they turn 18. 

Don’t Wait to Act

With the exponential increase in college expenses during the past couple of decades, every dollar counts. Your child deserves a good post-secondary education, and your ex should help according to their ability. McMahon Law Group can help you get your child’s finances straightened out; call our team at 360 – 893 – 2527 to schedule an initial consultation today.

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McMahon Law Group

Legal issues of any type can be a frightening and overwhelming experience, and certainly something you don’t want to face alone. Attorney Jacque McMahon and the McMahon Law Group will work closely with you to ensure you not only get the best legal representation possible, but that you are well-informed throughout the process. If you are facing legal issues, please contact us to discuss your situation and get the help you need.

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