If you live in a state that allows child support to continue beyond high school or the age of 18, you might wonder if you'll be required to pay for part of your child's college education. Some separation agreements already have a provision in place, but if yours doesn't state either way, here are the main factors courts and judges examine when determining whether non-custodial parents will have to pay this type of support.
Age of the child
States that allow post-secondary child support may still have an age cutoff. For instance, if the age limit for post-secondary education in your state is 23, and your child is 24, you won't have to pay. Also, if the child is in school for a long period of time and ages out, you may reach a point where you don't have to continue making payments.
Financial Needs of the Child
A financial need must be present for you to be required to pay. In other words, if your child has recently inherited a substantial amount of money from the death of a family member and can afford to pay for their college education, there's less of a chance you'll have to contribute to their costs.
Ability of Parent to Pay
The court almost always looks at the non-custodial parent's ability to pay for education expenses before making a final decision. If it would put an undue strain on the parent this type of support will generally not be ordered.
Type of Education
Beyond examining the parent's ability to pay, judges often look at the type of education the child is seeking and weighs that with the parent's financial capacity. For instance, if the child wants to go to an expensive bartending school, the courts may not require a poor parent to help pay.
"What If?" Scenario
Many judges will create a "what if" scenario, looking at the history of both parents and their marriage to determine whether they would have paid for a child's college education if they had stayed together. If a college fund was set aside, both parents attended college, or verbal agreements were made that the child would attend college someday, then there's a good chance you'll be asked to help.
If your child has historically done well in school, has high SAT/ACT scores, and performed well on college admissions tests, these factors all increase the likelihood of a parent being asked to help pay for college expenses. But if your child does poorly in school, and finances are not abundant, you may be able to fight a request for post-secondary child support.
Contact a lawyer, like Catherine Real Family Law, for more help.