How Do Divorced Parents Pay for College?
Below, we answer your questions about paying for college after you are divorced.
Q: Are divorced parents legally obligated to pay for their child's tuition and college expenses?
A: In general, most issues regarding educational expenses are addressed during the divorce with other child support issues. However, if there is no agreement in place, the state will decide the obligations of divorced parents. Some states might require divorced parents to pay for college related expenses, while other states see these as conditional expenses and do not force college expense payments and/or reimbursement on the parents.
Q: How do courts decide to award child support for college expenses?
A: Courts take look at a number of factors when determining if college expense support for an ex-spouse should be granted. These factors include:
- The financial resources of both parents, such as their income, savings, and investments
- The standard of living the child would have had if the marriage wasn’t dissolved
- The financial resources of the child, such as financial aid and scholarships
- The child's academic performance, particularly if the child was on track to go to college anyway.
College expenses generally include things like tuition, room and board, dues/fees, transportation, textbooks, medical/dental fees, and other general living expenses.
Q: Is there a formula to figure out support payment amounts?
A: Unfortunately, there isn’t a precise formula to determine how much you would owe your ex-spouse. For the most part, support payments are based on your ability to pay. Many states have strict guidelines when it comes to paying college expenses. Courts will consider the factors listed above when making a ruling on payment amounts.
Q: How long will I be obligated to pay for college expenses?
A: Similar to other forms of child support, payments for college expenses are subject to enforcement, modification, and termination. Usually, you are obligated to keep up with support payments until your child is emancipated or earns their degree.
Q: Does financial aid factor into a support decision?
A: Courts will consider if your child has access to financial aid. The custodial parent will need to submit a FAFSA (Free Application of Federal Student Aid) to find out if their child is eligible for financial aid or other scholarships and loans. Courts tend to order the child to accept these types of financial aid to help reduce their college expenses.
Contact us if you have more questions about paying for college expenses after your divorce!