By Mike Stetzer
When parents divorce, the immediate care of the child has to be considered, as well as future expenses. With college costs continuing to rise every year, many couples choose to include plans for your child’s college education in the divorce settlement.
Parents with younger children may choose to plan ahead and make contributions to a college savings fund before the child graduates high school. Planning can reduce the need for student loans and ease the financial burden for parents when it’s time for college.
In some states, child support doesn't end when a child reaches the legal age of child support termination. If a child is planning on continuing with a college education, college support, also called post-secondary or post-minority support, may be awarded by the court. Other states have no statutes holding parents responsible for college support; however, parents who are concerned about their child’s future may include provisions for a college education in the child support agreement.
College child support can be in addition to or as a replacement for regular child support. In states that have statutes holding parents responsible for the cost of a college education, the divorce court may consider several child support factors.
The divorce court may require documentation of both parents’ income and resources, as well as any income or resources the child may have. The court may also review the child’s aptitude, interests, wishes, goals and academic records. The educational level of the parents and any siblings or half-siblings the child has may be taken into account too.
If a regular child support order is still valid while the child is attending college, the paying parent may petition the court to modify child support based on the additional college expenses. Unless the original child support order is modified and a college support order exists, the paying parent is generally responsible for the regular child support payments and college child support.
In states that do not require parents to pay for a child’s college expenses, parents may negotiate the duties and financial responsibilities in the child support agreement. The details should be specific about which parent pays for particular college expenses and may include a spending cap.
A college support agreement may also limit financial support to a set number of semesters and dictate the price range of the college the child may attend. Any grants or scholarships the child may receive should also be anticipated, and details about how to handle college child support in the event of an award being included.
Provisions of the college child support agreement may also be made so that parents give some of the responsibility of college to the child. The agreement may specify the child should be partially responsible for tuition, books or other expenses if a grant or scholarship is not received. Parents may also require the child to take a certain number of credit hours per semester and maintain a minimum grade point average for college child support to continue. The agreement may include requirements that each parent be provided with information about the child’s progress, course load and grades while college child support is paid.
College expenses put many people in debt. Work with a local divorce lawyer to find out how you and your spouse can split the burden of college support. Call 877-349-1310 or fill out a divorce case review form to get started. Make sure your child can go to college by learning more about your future after divorce.
The above summary of college child support is by no means all-inclusive and is not intended to serve as legal advice. Laws may have changed since our last update. For the latest information on child support laws, speak to a local divorce lawyer in your state.