In most Washington state child support agreements, a non-custodial parent will be responsible for making payments until the child turns 18 or until he or she graduates from high school, whichever happens last. But college tuition expenses are included in a child support agreement. These expenses are usually reserved until the child is a senior in high school when it becomes clearer whether the child will attend college and other factors that affect costs like scholarship availability. If the parents cannot agree on how to pay these costs, the court will decide before the child graduates from high school.

Paying Tuition for Disabled Children

When your child experiences developmental delays or disabilities that prevent him or her from learning at a normal pace, the child may require extra schooling. The parent paying child support may be liable for helping pay additional expenses for vocational school or college. In order for this situation to occur, the custodial parent must seek a special education program designed to benefit the child's special needs directly and provide documentation of the program's intent, as well as the child's medical evaluations to show the need for the special education.

Special tuition needs can start as early as preschool and continue into adulthood, so it is important to have your child support agreement developed to account for all potential future educational expenses through your child's potential college or technical school career.

529 Plans for Your Child's Educational Future

When a couple first has a child, they may start saving for their child's college education in a 529 plan. This type of financial savings plan can be opened only in one parent's name and is considered a marital asset, even though the funds are designed to benefit the couple's child.

You and your spouse must come to an agreement about how the 529 plan will be administered following your divorce. You may wish to continue as-is and make regular contributions until your child is ready for college. Or you may decide to divide the plan equally so each parent can have control over his or her share of the child's education savings.

Your 529 plan can be protected in your divorce decree by specifying that it can be used only for your child's educational purposes. This will block the ability of either spouse from withdrawing money unless it is for the child's education. It also can impose a penalty on a spouse who makes an unauthorized withdrawal. You may wish to consider a dual signature requirement in which both parents must sign off on a withdrawal to guarantee they are both in agreement with the purpose of the withdrawal.

Work with a Divorce Attorney to Develop a Plan for Your Child's Education

When you are divorcing, there is a lot of work that must be done in order to protect your family's future. To ensure your child is provided for through his or her entire school career, steps must be taken during a divorce to determine who will pay or how tuition will be paid when your child reaches college age.

To avoid complications in planning for your child's future, The Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny is here to help. We help parents develop solid parenting plans and child custody and support agreements that keep your child's best interests in mind without compromising either parent's rights. Contact us online or call us at 425-460-0550 for help with your divorce case.

Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington
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