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Who Pays for a Child’s College Expenses In a Divorce?

College

There is no law that requires parents to send their kids to college. Despite news reports about children actually suing their parents for college expenses, the fact remains in most cases, there is no obligation to pay for school beyond high school.

Higher education is expensive. While most parents would love to pay their kids’ tuition and help them get ahead in life, the truth is that most parents rely on scholarships, grants, and student loans to help their children succeed in college. So, when two people get divorced, how does the court handle the issue of higher education? Attorney Todd K. Mohink provides careful and compassionate assistance to families and divorcing spouses who need to better understand their rights and obligations in a divorce. Contact us today if you need help with your divorce.

No Obligation to Pay for College 

In general, Maryland courts will require child support to continue only until the child turns 18, or longer if the child is still living at home and attending high school. In general, however, the law says nothing about parents being required to pay for college.

Agreeing to Pay for College 

When practical, parents may wish to reach an agreement about how college expenses will be paid. For instance, two divorcing parents may wish to use college expenses as a way to offset other expenses, like property division. Remember, though, the parties must agree. A court will not generally require anyone to put a child through college. Consider this example of a possible negotiation:

Spouse A makes significantly more money than Spouse B, but Spouse B is the primary custodial parent. Spouse A has a higher tax rate and could benefit from a large tax break. During negotiations, Spouse A suggests an offset on money paid to Spouse B, instead offering to fund a tax-deferred college account for the child.  By doing this, the money is being used to benefit the child (something judges generally like). It also helps the higher-earning spouse get a tax benefit, and it eases the burden on Spouse B by covering the costs of higher education.

Once an agreement is in place, however, this does create a legal obligation.  It can be quite difficult to revise or modify such an agreement later on. Therefore, it is advisable that you speak with an experienced divorce lawyer before volunteering to pay for anything that is not legally required.

Child Support Reduction and College Expenses 

Some parents think that if they agree to fund a child’s college expenses, this should be considered in order to reduce or “offset” child support obligations. However, it’s important to understand that these are two very different things. Child support is a parent’s duty to support a minor child who is living with someone else. That money is designed to help the custodial parent support the child until he or she reaches adulthood. College expenses, however, are a voluntary expense that parents take upon themselves in order to better their children’s’ future. Negotiations over college costs should always start by understanding this distinction.

Where to Turn for Help 

With offices serving Anne Arundel, Howard, and Baltimore Counties, the Law Offices of Todd K. Mohink, P.A. are here to help you with your most difficult and challenging divorce and child support questions. Call or visit us online today to learn more about how we can help.

Resource:

usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/03/04/student-sues-parents-college-tuition/6024457/

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