Who pays for college tuition in a divorce or separation?

On Behalf of | Jul 14, 2023 | Child Support

If you are divorcing or divorced and you have a child with plans to go to college at some point, you will need to answer this question: who pays for their education?

What are we paying for?

Post-secondary education support refers to the money parents contribute to a child’s education after high school. This support goes toward expenses like:

  • Tuition
  • Housing
  • Books
  • Other living expenses

You will typically make payments directly to the school, but your will work out the payment expectations in your original child support order or by modifying this order by citing a substantial change in circumstances.

Two options for deciding

Generally speaking, you will decide on post-secondary educational support in one of two ways:

  • Negotiating an arrangement yourselves in mediation or other out-of-court methods
  • Asking the courts to award post-secondary support

For most people, the first option is going to be best. This approach allows you to be as creative or flexible as you wish. You and the other parent of your child can discuss contributions based on factors like where your child attends and whether there will be other sources of financial support, like scholarships.

If you cannot agree on paying for your child’s post-secondary education, you or your ex will need to petition the courts to decide. They base their decisions on factors like parental resources and expectations.

What role will our child play?

Your child’s goals, plans and performance can affect this type of support. These are typically not factors in traditional child support orders, so keep this in mind.

In Washington State, children have responsibilities to fulfill to receive support. Depending on your agreement or court order, your child’s role can involve:

  • Going to a specific school or school in a particular state
  • Providing school records to both parents
  • Taking courses relevant to their intended field of study
  • Remaining in good standing at the school

Your child may also be responsible for covering some of the costs through scholarships or side jobs. These decisions will affect how much parents must contribute and whether they must contribute at all.

Reaching fair outcomes

Whether you work out the details of post-secondary education support yourselves or in court, these decisions must be fair and lawful. You can cover your bases by consulting an attorney before agreeing to anything.