The classic rule that you only need to support your children up to the moment they turn 18 is not necessarily true. Some states require that parents continue supporting their children for educational expenses while other states treat these matters as conditional. Typically, the divorce decree should have allocated the responsibility, but absent that, the court will consider if these are mandatory or conditional expenses. This article will explore what educational expenses are covered and, if they are, how long these obligations can continue.
Your obligation to pay ends when your child is considered "self-supporting." When that occurs, depends on a number of factors including your expectations, your child's expectations, feasibility, grades and other factors. Essentially, if you always envisioned your child as a doctor or lawyer – you must continue to support them through that education.
When awarding child support for college expenses the court will take a holistic approach:
- Whether or not the child is going to college, i.e., academic performance.
- The standard of living the child is accustomed to.
- Whether or not and/or how much the child received in scholarships, grants and financial aid.
Working out an agreement regarding college expenses can be just as contentious as any other dispute you have over child support. It is usually cheaper and easier to negotiate directly with your ex-spouse over matters of child support. This can save you on litigation costs and stress. As always with family law, maintaining good relations with your ex-spouse can make everyone's lives that much easier.
If your child is entering college, then you may want to speak to a family law attorney. Your child support obligation could end, continue or possibly increase. The court will consider all of the relevant factors to determine if and how much you have to pay to support your child. Make sure you go into these proceedings well-prepared with a professional. Family law courts can sometimes behave like the Wild West and enter idiosyncratic orders, so preparation is critical to making sure you pay your fair share.