Can you ask your ex to help pay for your child’s college costs?

Parents who share custody have to mutually support their children until they become adults. Your standard Washington custody and child support orders will remain in effect until your child turns 18 or finishes high school. At that point, your child is an adult in the eyes of the state, which usually means that support will end and the child can decide for themselves where they live and who they visit.

However, as a parent hoping to send your child on to college for a degree, you know that the most expensive stage of your child’s upbringing is just around the corner. Can you ask the courts to have your ex pay some of those college costs through child support?

Washington does authorize post-secondary support

Unlike many states, Washington has a specific law already in place discussing college education costs and child support. Post-secondary support is an option when a child previously subject to a support order turns 18 and intends to enroll in an institution of higher education. You will need to ask the courts for such support before your child turns 18 or graduates.

Unlike child support when the child is still a minor, post-secondary support is often voluntary. However, the courts can look at the financial circumstances of both parents and determine that the one paying support previously should contribute during the child’s college education.

You don’t have to go to court for college child support

If you and your ex are in agreement about how important it is for your child to attend college, you may be able to reach a settlement regarding custody and support matters that includes a requirement to make specific contributions toward college savings now and toward college expenses once your child graduates from high school.

Addressing what will be one of your family’s biggest contributions to your child’s education in your divorce will help give your children a sense of stability and let them know that both of you will continue to support them even after the end of your marriage. Learning more about the Washington approach to child support matters can help those planning financially in the early stages of divorce.