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April 30, 1970
Honorable Jack Metcalf
State Senator, 21st District
7421 46th West
Mukilteo, Washington 98275
Cite as: AGLO 1970 No. 70
Dear Senator Metcalf:
By letter previously acknowledged you have requested an opinion of this office on a question which we paraphrase as follows:
Is a state community college legally required to charge the statutory nonresident fees to a student who has not been domiciled in Washington state for twelve consecutive months prior to the beginning of the quarter registered for but who marries a Washington state resident during that period?
A subsidiary question contained in your letter is whether the legal result differs depending upon whether the nonresident spouse is male or female.
We answer your first question in the affirmative and your second question in the negative for the reasons set forth in our analysis.
RCW 28.85.310 sets forth the legal requirements for tuition and fee charges in the state community college system and provides in part as follows:
The board of trustees of each community college district shall charge to and collect from each of the students registered therein such general tuition, incidental fees and other fees for quarters other than summer session as follows: (1) Resident students; (a) general tuition fees, fifty dollars per quarter; and (b) incidental fees, not more than twenty dollars per quarter. . . . [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] The term "resident students" as used in this section shall mean students who have been domiciled in this state at least one year prior to the commencement of the quarter for which he registers, federal employees and military personnel, the children and spouses of federal employees and military personnel residing within the state, and staff members of the community college and their children and spouses. The term "nonresident students" shall mean all students other than resident students.
The language of the statute is mandatory and therefore the community colleges must make the charges set forth and must classify students as nonresident or resident for these purposes as set forth in the statute.
With respect to the effect of marriage upon a person's domicile the following general rules are applicable. There are generally two means by which a person's domicile may be established: domicile by choice and domicile by operation of law. See 25 Am.Jur.2d Domicile §§ 14 and 15. A domicile of choice is a domicile chosen by a person to replace his former domicile. 25 Am.Jur.2d Domicile § 14. A domicile by operation of law is one which is assigned or attributed to a person by the law, independent of his residence or intention. 25 Am.Jur.2d Domicile § 16.
With respect to married persons the following general rule is applicable.
Following the rule established at common law, a woman on her marriage loses her domicile and, by operation of law, acquires that of her husband, no matter where the wife actually lives or what she believes or intends. Her domicile is fixed in the sense that it is declared to be the same as his. . . . [The husband] can change her domicile by changing his own. The matrimonial domicile is that of the husband . . . 25 Am.Jur.2d Domicile § 48.
The above rules apply to the normal situation of married persons.
In applying the above rules to the Washington statutory residency requirements for tuition payments in our community college system the following rules apply.
A student must be charged nonresident tuition unless the student has been domiciled in the state of Washington twelve consecutive months prior to the beginning of the specific quarter or semester that he or she has registered for. If a male student who has not begun or completed the statutory requirement marries [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] a Washington state resident his residency status is not affected by the marriage.
However, if a female student who has not begun or completed the statutory residence requirements marries a Washington state resident, by operation of law she becomes domiciled in the state of Washington, but this does not qualify her for residency tuition until her status as a domiciliary of the state of Washington has continued for the necessary twelve month period. This time requirement may be met by combining a period immediately prior to the marriage during which domicile was established in Washington with the period of domicile occurring through operation by law during the marriage.
Community colleges throughout the state are being advised to conform their policies to this opinion.
We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
Bertram L. Metzger, Jr.
Assistant Attorney General