Stuart N. House, P.A.

Child Support: Is College Tuition Payment Required?

Friday, November 11, 2016

The State of Florida does not require parents to pay for a child's college education, nor does the federal government. Still, a parent who is getting a divorce and who is concerned about the payment of future college expenses for a minor child should be prepared to raise the issue of college expenses with a Coral Springs child support lawyer early on in the proceedings.

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Payment of college expenses can be negotiated through an attorney. A parental agreement regarding college expenses can be made part of a mediation agreement or marital settlement agreement, and thereafter ratified and made part of a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.

Key Questions Related to Children's Education

Divorcing Coral Springs parents who are contemplating whether to agree to payment of future college expenses should consider the following questions:

  • What exactly is meant by the term "college expenses"? Are college expenses limited to tuition and textbooks? What about room and board, computer equipment and transportation costs? How about the costs associated with extracurricular activities? What about semesters abroad?
  • When will the payment of college expenses begin and end? Will the parent be contributing toward the cost of a bachelor's degree or will the parent be paying for college through graduate school? What if your minor child ultimately chooses to pursue a Ph.D. or post-doctoral education?
  • How will the child's college education be funded? Will both parents be funding an education savings account? Will either parent be required to take out loans to support the child's education? What contingency plan could be set up in the event that one or both parents experiences financial hardship?
  • How will the tax benefits generated as a result of either parent contributing for college expenses be allocated?
  • Where will the child be attending college? Out-of-state universities are typically more costly than in-state universities. If a minor child chooses to attend an out-of-state university, what will the financial impact be for each parent? What if your child chooses a university in a foreign country?
  • Who will be responsible for college expenses in the event that the child squanders educational benefits? If a child fails to maintain a certain grade point average, would that limit or eliminate a parental requirement to provide college funding?

In light of the issues that need to be addressed when determining whether to fund a child's college education, it is important for divorcing parents to raise these issues in advance with their child support attorneys. Your lawyers can define what level of contribution (if any) you may be able to make toward a child's college expenses. He or she will also work to protect you by ensuing that any proposed marital settlement agreement incorporates specific language setting forth what college expenses are and are not, along with date limitations on periods of contribution.

Parents pondering the future payment of college expenses should be realistic about what they can and cannot agree to. It is natural for parents to want the very best for their children in all aspects of life. Parents who are struggling with the difficult emotions that surround a divorce may be particularly vulnerable to financially unwise decision-making when it comes to future college funding. Divorcing parents should therefore discuss the matter with Coral Springs child support attorneys prior to entering into any agreement regarding payment of college expenses.

Speaking With Your Spouse During Divorce

Friday, November 11, 2016

Posted By: Stuart N. House, P.A.

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me."

Whoever said that probably never went through a divorce. As your lawyer probably will caution throughout the divorce process, words can hurt in any number of ways. Finding the right ones (or refraining from using the wrong ones) when talking to a spouse can be difficult.

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The following DOs and DONT's are helpful when dealing with spousal communication.

  • DON'T say anything to your spouse that can be later used against you in a court of law. This includes leaving angry voicemails, writing hurtful letters, or sending hostile texts or emails. All instantaneous communication devices are dangerous for persons going through a divorce, because words exchanged in the heat of the moment can be recorded and saved. For example, your spouse may be late in dropping off the children for a time-sharing exchange. Texting, “If you don’t bring the kids now I am going to kill you” is unwise. Your spouse could easily save the text and use it as an exhibit in a petition for injunction for injunction against domestic violence. There is no way for the court to know whether a threatening text is said in jest. Before sending that text, before sending that email, stop and think about how it will sound if read aloud in a court of law.
  • DO communicate with your spouse on all matters involving your minor children. When going through a divorce, some spouses are tempted to withhold information, such as information regarding children’s doctor’s appointments, sporting events and parent-teacher meetings. Do not withhold this information. Pursuant to Florida Statute 61.13, one of the factors that the court is required to consider when determining parental responsibility and time-sharing is “The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child." By communicating appropriately with your spouse regarding the children, you are demonstrating your capacity to live up to the standard for shared parenting set by Florida law.
  • DON'T use your children as messengers. Using children as messengers puts a terrible emotional burden on them that they are unequipped to shoulder. It is not the children’s job to let the other parent know about a doctor’s appointment or a parent-teacher meeting. The court considers using children as messengers to be grossly inappropriate. Another factor in Florida Statute 61.13 that the court considers when determining parental responsibility and time-sharing is “The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.” Using a child as a messenger demonstrates that the parent does not have the capacity to put the child's needs first. This is especially important when a judge considers the best interest of the children.
  • DO keep your guard up. If there are no children involved in the divorce, it may not be necessary to talk at all. As Euripides wisely opined, "Silence is true wisdom’s best reply." When in doubt, refrain from talking with your spouse until you have discussed the matter with counsel.

If you have a specific question, your Coral Springs or Parkland divorce attorney can guide you on the best course of action regarding spousal communication.