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College support (Post-Secondary Education Support) — One example

On Behalf of | Dec 12, 2014 | Child Custody & Visitation

The court order regarding Post-Secondary Education Support (PSES)

The child and each parent are normally held to be responsible for 1/3 of the cost of the child’s college costs, including tuition, room & board, Books and Supplies, & transportation. The combined share of the parents would therefore be 2/3 of this amount. The child’s 1/3 will normally be paid from part time work, student loans, grants and scholarships. Any excess from the child’s share would normally be equally & proportionately attributed to the parents’ obligation. The Court normally limits the parent’s 2/3 share at 2/3 of the cost of attending the University of Washington (this is a common provision). The UW cost therefore acts as a “cap” or upper limit to the parents’ obligation. The parents then are usually ordered to divide this share proportionate to their net incomes.

What happens if the child’s college costs exceed the UW cap?

Let’s assume the annual cost of the child’s college is $33,000, and the annual cost at the UW is $21,000. The child’s college would exceed the cost of attending the UW by $12,000 a year. Since the UW cost acts as a “cap” on PSES, the parents would each only pay 1/3 of the $21,000 cost for the UW, or $7,000 each. After both parents pay their one-third share of the UW cost (a total of $14,000), the child would have to pay the balance owed at the child’s chosen college, or $19,000 ($33,000 cost at the child’s college, minus the $14,000 parents’ share = $19,000). The child can pay that through part time jobs, student loans, grants or scholarships. Of course, either parent could voluntarily pay the difference, but it would not be required by the PSES order.

What if the scholarships exceed the child’s costs?

If, on the other hand, the child’s scholarships and grants pay were in excess of the child’s college costs, the parents’ shares would be reduced or eliminated. In the above example, if the scholarships were $33,000 (a full scholarship), the parents’ share would be $0.

What happens if the child’s college cost is less than the UW cap?

If the child’s college cost is only $15,000 per year, the shares would normally be $5,000 for each parent, and $5,000 for the child (i.e., each would pay 1/3 of the 15,000).


This Legal Guide is provided for general educational purposes only. By using or participating in this site you agree and understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the attorney who wrote this Legal Guide, and no attorney-client confidentiality. The law changes frequently, and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The information provided in this Guide is general in nature and may not apply to the factual circumstances described in your question. The applicable law and the appropriate advice may be different in the State or States where the relevant facts occurred. For definitive legal advice you should independently consult an attorney who (1) is licensed to practice in the state which has jurisdiction; (2) has experience in the area of law you are asking about, and (3) has been retained as your attorney for representation or consultation. Your comment to this Legal Guide may be used for promotional or educational purposes. (C)Bruce Clement


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