The analysis of whether a parent should help contribute for postsecondary education is different than the analysis for “regular” child support and typically is based on the following factors:

  1. Whether the child is dependent and relying upon the parents for the reasonable necessities of life;
  2. The child’s age;
  3. The child’s needs;
  4. The expectations of the parents for the child when the parents were together;
  5. The child’s prospects, desires, aptitudes, abilities or disabilities;
  6. The nature of the postsecondary education sought;
  7. The parents’ level of education, standard of living, and current and future resources; and
  8. The amount and type of support that the child would have been afforded if the parents had stayed together.
  9. As a rule, courts generally order both parents to help contribute to a child’s postsecondary education. For the parent who was the obligor parent when regular child support was paid, the support may remain the same. In the past, the court often considered the “rule of thirds,” i.e., father pays a third, mother pays a third, and child pays a third (often via student loans) for the cost of attending college with the parents’ obligations often “capped” at one-third of the cost of a student attending the University of Washington at Seattle (inclusive of room and board).

The trend is to burden the child as little as possible with student loans. The court also can order something entirely different than anything discussed above. In short, each case is different.

If the child lives at home while attending college, the court can consider part of a postsecondary support award being paid to the parent with whom the child lives as a form of room and board.