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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.

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