August 5, 2022
While it is not necessarily written into the law in every state, in many states, a divorced parent may be ordered by the court to contribute to their child’s college fund. This order is usually considered separate from child support and is sometimes addressed in the original divorce agreement the parents enter into. The following is a brief overview. For more detailed information about your particular situation, contact a family lawyer.
In many states, the court generally has the discretion to order “sums of money” from the marital estate to go toward educational expenses for the couple’s children. Educational expenses do not mean just tuition, but may also cover textbooks, room and board, transportation costs, or any other relevant expenditure. Typically, this “support” ends when the child turns 23, although there may be exceptions for late starts. Sometimes, this is referred to as “non-minor support.”
It is important to realize that, unlike child support, there is no formula or suggested guidelines for educational expenses. Instead, it is left entirely up to the judge. While a truly outrageous request would likely be shot down by the court, any request within reason will likely stand. If you are aware of the judge’s broad discretion, however, you may be able to tailor your approach in court so as to avoid a heavy apportionment.
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Depending on the structure of your divorce decree, you may be able to enforce the contract even retroactively. If your divorce decree “reserves” discussion of such issues, you cannot enforce the college expenses provision retroactively; you must start a new claim and thus will only be able to claim expenses going forward. If your divorce decree explicitly discusses college expenses, though, you may be able to argue that the other parent can be held responsible for expenses dating back further.
There have been cases where the courts have ruled in favor of one party and other cases where the court has agreed with the other party, which is all the more reason why you should have a skilled and seasoned family lawyer representing you and advocating for your interests.
Contact a Family Law Firm
College is an expensive proposition, especially at a top-tier school, but education is the key to a bright future for any child. Nonetheless, if you are ordered to contribute to your children’s college fund, it must not be for more than you can afford. If you are having trouble with this issue, whether you are the parent seeking college expense support from the other parent or you are the parent that the support is being requested from, contact an experienced attorney, like a Des Moines, IA family lawyer from the Law Group of Iowa.