In Re Marriage of Cota: The court sought reduction of child support to 45% of the father’s monthly income or reason for raising the cap.
By Christina A. Meserve and Charles E. Szurszewski, family lawyers
The parties were divorced in 2006. In 2010, the wife requested post-secondary educational support for the parties’ daughter, who was then 17. The commissioner reserved ruling on the issue because the daughter had not yet been accepted to college and the amount of her education expense was not yet clear. The applicable sections of the original support order read as follows:
3.13 Termination of Support.
Support shall be paid until the children turn 18 or until the children graduate from high school, whichever occurs last, except as in Paragraph 3.14 below.
3.14 Post Secondary Educational Support.
Post-secondary support determination is premature and is reserved for future determination.
The next year, the father moved to modify his support obligation, presumably downward. The mother again requested an award of post educational support for the daughter who had turned 18, had graduated from high school and was enrolled at PLU.
In Re Marriage of Cota: The Court of Appeals Affirms Post-Secondary Educational Support
The court ordered a contribution to post-secondary educational support. The Court of Appeals affirmed. However, because the amount of the father’s support obligation for all children (including the post-secondary educational contribution) exceeded 45% of his net monthly income, the award was reversed and remanded.
The father argued that because the mother’s motion was filed after the child had turned 18 and graduated from high school, the court lost the authority to award post-secondary educational support. Because the issue had specifically been reserved in a prior court ruling, the Court of Appeals had no difficulty rejecting that argument.
The second issue was whether a post-secondary educational contribution is included within the definition of “child support” where the statute provides that a parent’s child support obligation may not exceed 45% of his or her net income except for good cause. The Court of Appeals remanded to the trial court to either reduce the father’s child support obligation to 45% of his net monthly income or determine that good cause existed for exceeding the 45% cap.
Christina A. Meserve and Charles E. Szurszewski practice family law in Olympia, Washington with the law firm of Connolly Tacon & Meserve.
Overruling Ex parte Bayliss, 550 So.2d 986 (Ala. 1989), the Supreme Court of Alabama held that the trial court may not award post-majority support for post-secondary education.