If you get divorced early in your child’s life, you are not likely to be thinking about how to pay for the child’s college education. Several years later, however, your child may be looking at attending college. As college tuition and related costs continue to skyrocket, resulting in unprecedented levels of student loan debt, you may look to your ex-spouse or your child’s other parent to help shoulder some of the costs of your child’s college expenses. While it is not mandatory for a parent to pay for his or her child’s college expenses, Washington law does provide that a parent may be ordered to pay child support beyond the child’s 18th birthday until the age of 23, if the child is attending school. There are some very specific requirements that you must satisfy in order to have a court order that your child’s other parent pay for your child’s post-secondary education needs, as follows:

• You must ask the court to order post-secondary education expenses before the other parent’s child support obligation stops, which is normally when the child reaches the age of 18.
• Your child must be attending an accredited academic or vocational school as a full-time student.
• Your child must be in good academic standing as defined by his or her school.
• Your child must provide both parents with his or her grades and academic records.
• Post-secondary child support payments should go to the school or directly to the child, if possible.

Particularly if you are able to reach an agreement with your ex-spouse about paying college expenses for your child, you may be able to set additional limitations on payment of those expenses. For instance, your agreement could put a cap on the total amount that the parents are required to spend for the child’s post-secondary education. It also could define the length of time during which each parent is required to contribute to the child’s college expenses. The agreement might also require the child to be responsible for a portion of his or her own college expenses.

At Pacific Northwest Family Law, we know how stressful, emotional, and complex divorce and family law proceedings can be. If you are facing a family law case involving your child’s college expenses, you need the advice and guidance of an attorney with a background in family law. Contact our office today, schedule a meeting with an experienced Washington family law attorney at Pacific Northwest Family Law, and learn how we can help you with your divorce or family law case.