My daughter and I moved to WA in 1999 - my daughter's father is in MI - can I get child support & help with college costs?

Asked over 1 year ago - Seattle, WA

The man in question (Tony) paid support until 2008. Then I didn't pursue anything because in 2008 I had a job and anytime lawyers became involved Tony would severely harass my mother who still lives in MI. I lost my job in April and have yet to find work - we already were living paycheck to paycheck as I'm a single mother. Given my financial situation, I've told my 16 yr old daughter her dream of being a physicist will have to be put on hold. The cost of college is now more than student loans and part-time work will cover. My credit is absolutely awful and I still owe $32K on my own student loans. I read online that WA is one of the states where support can include partial college costs? Is there any way to pursue reinstating child support and help with college costs?

Attorney answers (3)

  1. Michael A. Aronoff

    Contributor Level 12

    1

    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . I disagree with parts of thie above answer. Home state jurisdiction is relevant in custody matters. The key issue is where does the father currently live, and what state issued the original order.
    If he lives in WA or has any sufficient jurisdictional contact with this state, then WA has authority to modify. If he does not have sufficient contacts here, you need to go to his state. Also, there is recent case law that affects your situation in that if WA is modifying another state's suppoort order, and the other state does not have college support, WA may not add it.
    You are dealing with sophisticated legal issues and should seek counsel right away.

    This post is not meant to be legal advice for a specific situation. Additionally, it does not constitute an... more
  2. Kate M Forrest

    Contributor Level 15

    Answered . Washington uses standard forms, and section 3.14 of the Child Support Order does indeed allow for the option of providing for Post Secondary Education Support. However, the parties must agree to it, because there is no legal obligation to pay for a child after the age of 18, and a court cannot impose such a burden on its own.

    Regarding your current situation, though, it sounds like there is still a valid support order in place, and he would owe back support (with interest) if he has simply been refusing to pay since 2008 without a court changing the order. You can ask Washington State Department of Social and Health Services for assistance in collecting that support (I have included a link to their website).

    Since a lot of time has passed since the order was entered, there may also be grounds for a court to enter a new order based on your child's current needs, but is unclear from your question whether the original order was entered by a court in Michigan or in Washington. This makes a big difference because the original court will generally have "exclusive continuing jurisdiction" over the matter, meaning it is the only court with authority to change orders regarding your child. You have been here long enough that Washington is most likely her "home state" under the legal definition, but arguing jurisdiction can be complicated, so you should definitely consider consulting an attorney if you want to make any changes.

  3. Karen Christina Skantze

    Pro

    Contributor Level 9

    Answered . agree with Mr. Aronoff's post. I would add that, assuming the venue could be changed and the original jurisdiction did permit post-secondary (college) support, then you would need to file your Petition for Post-secondary support before the terminating event identified in the Order of Child support or under the laws of the state that issued the parenting plan and order of child support. In WA, for example, child support orders usually states that the obligation to pay child support terminates when the child turns 18 or completes high school, whichever occurs last. Accordingly, a petition must be filed before the terminating event applicable to your case. There are complicated issues here, and you should consult with an attorney about how best to traverse through the procedural and substantive issues of a case like yours.

    Karen C. Skantze practices in the State of Washington. The response is limited to her understanding of law in the... more

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