In the Matter of the Marriage of Anne Sprute, Respondent, and Eric Bradley, Appellant
Appeal from Pierce County Superior Court. Docket No: 03-3-00461-7. Judge signing: Honorable James R Orlando. Judgment or order under review. Date filed: 10/25/2013.
C. David Lutz (of Lutz Law Offices PS ), for appellant.
Daniel W. Smith (of Campbell Dille Barnett & Smith PLLC ), for respondent.
Authored by Bradley A. Maxa. Concurring: Linda CJ Lee, Jill M Johanson.
[186 Wn.App. 345] OPINION
[186 Wn.App. 346] Bradley A. Maxa,
[¶1] Eric Bradley appeals the trial court's orders in a dissolution action relating to his obligations to pay his son's college expenses and his daughter's child support. Bradley argues that the trial court erred by (1) ordering postsecondary educational support for his son even though his former wife Ann Sprute did not file her child support worksheets until after the deadline for filing the request for such support, (2) concluding that Sprute's Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits did not reduce his portion of postsecondary educational support, (3) failing to cap the total amount of postsecondary educational support at the amount charged by the University of Washington,
Seattle (UW), and (4) using the one-child column rather than the two-child column of the child support schedule to determine the support for his minor daughter.
[¶2] We hold that (1) Sprute was not required to file her child support worksheets with her request for postsecondary educational support in order to timely request such support; (2) Sprute's GI Bill benefits could only be applied to reduce her own postsecondary educational support obligations under 38 U.S.C. § 3319(f)(3); (3) the trial court did not abuse its discretion by failing to cap postsecondary educational support at the amount charged by UW; and (4) the trial court erred by using the one-child column to calculate child support for the parties' minor child because the parties were supporting two children. We consider and reject Bradley's additional arguments in the unpublished portion of this opinion. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court's order except for the child support provision. We reverse on that issue and remand for recalculation of child support for the daughter consistent with this opinion.
[¶3] When Sprute and Bradley divorced in 2003, the trial court entered an order of child support providing for their [186 Wn.App. 347] children Joshua (then age 8) and SB (then age 5). Sprute was an active member of the United States Army and remained so until she retired in 2010 after 23 years in the military.
[¶4] In 2011, the parties agreed to amend their previous child support order to read:
3.13 Termination of Support
Support shall be paid until the children reach the age of 18, or as long as the children remain(s) enrolled in high school, whichever occurs last, except as otherwise provided below in Paragraph 3.14.
3.14 Post Secondary Educational Support
The right to request post secondary support is reserved, provided that the right is exercised before support terminates as set forth in paragraph 3.13.
Clerk's Papers (CP) at 168.
[¶5] In May 2013, Sprute filed a petition to modify the parties' 2011 amended child support agreement, requesting that the trial court award postsecondary educational support for Joshua. The petition was filed before Joshua graduated from high school. However, Sprute did not file child support worksheets with the petition. Sprute eventually filed her child support worksheets, financial declaration, and sealed financial documents on August 19, after Joshua had graduated.
[¶6] In his response to the petition to modify, Bradley argued that (1) the court did not have authority to rule on the petition based on the parties' 2011 amended child support agreement because Sprute had not timely filed the worksheets supporting the petition, (2) Sprute's Post-9/11-GI Bill benefits should be applied to reduce Sprute and Bradley's joint obligation for Joshua's educational support, and (3) the court should cap Joshua's award of educational support at the amount charged by UW.
[¶7] The commissioner (1) found that Sprute had timely filed her petition to modify the child support order, (2) ordered [186 Wn.App. 348] Bradley to pay 46 percent of Joshua's tuition, room, and board at Colorado State University up to the amount annually paid at UW, and (3) ordered that both parents receive a pro rata deduction in their payments toward Joshua's educational expenses if Sprute chose to use her GI Bill benefits for those expenses. The commissioner also ordered Bradley to pay $1,501.44 per month in child support for SB based on the one-child column of the economic table of the child support schedule.
[¶8] Sprute filed a motion to revise the commissioner's order. The trial court revised the commissioner's order in two respects. First, the trial court ordered that if Sprute chose to use her Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, those benefits would apply toward her share of Joshua's educational support only. Second, the trial court ordered that both parents pay their pro rata shares of Joshua's total annual expenses at Colorado State University, regardless of the cost of attending UW.
[¶9] Bradley appeals.
A. Authority to Award Postsecondary Educational Support
[¶10] Bradley argues that the trial court did not have authority to award postsecondary educational support for Joshua because (1) in order for the request for postsecondary educational support to be timely, Sprute had to file both the motion to modify and the child support worksheets before support terminated, and (2) Sprute failed to file child support worksheets until Joshua's support had terminated. We disagree.
[¶11] The 2011 amended child support order reserved the right of a party to request postsecondary educational support, provided that the right was exercised before the child's support terminated. Joshua's child support obligation terminated when he graduated from high school. Sprute filed her petition to modify child support, which included a [186 Wn.App. 349] request for postsecondary educational support for Joshua, before Joshua's support terminated at his graduation. But she did not file child support worksheets supporting the motion until after support had terminated.
[¶12] Bradley relies on RCW 26.09.175(1), which states that a proceeding for the modification of a child support order " shall commence with the filing of a petition and worksheets." (Emphasis added.) He argues that under this statute, a party does not exercise a right to request postsecondary educational support until both a petition to modify and child support worksheets are filed. Therefore, the issue is whether " exercising the right" to request postsecondary educational support requires a party only to file a petition to modify the child support order, ...