College Expenses and Child Support FAQ

Q: Do divorced or separated parents have a legal obligation to pay for their children’s college fees and related expenses?

A: Generally the issue of educational expenses will be addressed along with other child support issues during the divorce process. If there is no child support agreement, the state law will determine the legal obligations of the parents with regard to the college fees and other related expenses. In some states, the divorced or separated parents must pay the college expenses while in other they need not.

Q: What factors are considered by the court when awarding college fees and other related expenses as part of child support?

A: The court will consider many factors including:

• Parents’ finances including income, investments and savings
• The living standard of the child had the marriage continued
• Finances available to the child including scholarships and other financial aid
• The academic performance of the child

If child support order includes college fees and other related expenses, the parent must pay the tuition fees, general living expenses, transportation costs, room and boarding expenses and medical costs.

Q: Is there a way of knowing how much I will have to pay for college expenses of my child?

A: It is not possible to calculate the exact amount but generally the amount will depend on your ability to pay. All states have child support guidelines which the courts use to determine the amount of support. So essentially the court will have the discretion to determine the amount of support.

Q: How long do I have to pay the college expenses?

A: The obligation to pay the college expenses is part of the child support order. Child support orders are subject to termination, modification and enforcement. A child attending college is generally not emancipated or self supporting. Once the child becomes emancipated or earns a college degree, your obligation will end. However if the child is living on campus, your child support obligation may reduce because generally the cost of college will include the cost of room and board and the custodial parent does not pay those expenses. However as the non-custodial you must pay those expenses but it is likely to be reduced.

Q: Is the financial aid available to the child a factor in determining the amount of support?

A: The availability of financial aid is one of the factors that the court will consider. If the child is eligible for scholarships, financial aid or loans, the custodial parent must complete and submit the Free Application of Federal Student Aid. The courts will generally require the child to accept the financial aid the child receives.

Q: Do I have to pay for my child wanting to go to a private college when there is a well known public college nearby and the fees for the public college is significantly less?

A: This is a very common issue. The court will consider many factors before determining whether you have to pay for the private college when there is a similar public college nearby. Please consult a family law attorney near you.

Q: Do I have to pay for my child’s professional education?

A: This depends on many factors including the academic performance of the child and the future you and the child’s other parent (your ex) envisaged during the time the two of you were together.

Q: What is the best time to apply for college fee and related expenses support?

A: The best time is when the college application forms are submitted but before the final selection of the college.

Q: Who will get the support? My ex or my child?

A: Child support goes to the custodial parent of the child. So your ex will get the support. Even if your child is attending college, he or she will still come home during vacations and the custodial parent has to maintain the home for the child to come back to.

Like most family law issues, it is always better to determine the issue of child support through an agreement than a court order as the parents can negotiate and reach the agreement keeping in mind the specific requirements of the child. If you are unable to reach an agreement, contact an experienced family law attorney.

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