The commissioner will need proof of the costs of the college (books, tuition, lab fees, room and board, etc.). In Pierce County the max allowed will be these costs at the UW; if the college used is less than that, the lesser amount will be used. The commissioner will also need info on the income and financial resources of both parties.
Basic Requirements for PSES
The "child" is actually an adult, i.e., 18 years or older. The child must be financially dependent on the parents for the reasonable necessities of life. The court has very wide discretion when determining whether to award PSES. The statute requires that the Court's decision be based upon all relevant factors, including (a) the age of the child; (b) the child's needs; (c) the parent's expectations for the child when they were together; (d) the child's prospects, desires, aptitudes, abilities or disabilities; (e) the nature of the post secondary education requested; and (f) the parents' level of education, standard of living, and resources.
What the Commissioners Normally Do
Commonly the commissioner will order that the student (your college-bound child) must provide 1/3 of the cost through grants, scholarships, student loans or part time work. The two parents will then normally be required to pick up the balance based on their net incomes.
A Specific Example
As an example, if the costs of the college being used is $21,000 per year, the student will be responsible for $7,000 (1/3 X $21,000 = $7000). The balance (2/3 X $21,000 = $14,000) will be split by the parents. If Mom earns $2000 a month, and Dad earns $5000 a month, the total earned is $7000 per month. Mom would pay 2/7 of $14000, or $4000 for the academic year; and Dad would pay 5/7 of $14000, or $10000 for the academic year.
What the Commissioners Commonly Need
This is just one common way the Commissioners allocate responsibility for PSES, but it is the most common way I have seen. In order for the Commissioner in your case to make these calculations, the court has to have documents proving the appropriate costs for the college, and the net incomes of both parents.
Exhibits Normally Needed
For college costs you have to submit info showing typical costs for tuition, books, lab fees, etc. This is often available on line, or through the college's administrative office. For parental income the court will need wage stubs, W2's, and tax returns for the last one or two years.
All these documents can be submitted as exhibits at a trial or at a motion on the family law docket. Obviously, an experienced attorney can be invaluable in presenting a case in which PSES is requested.
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