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Who Pays for College?

College Expenses and divorce

Will you, your spouse or both be required to pay for college for your children? This depends on your divorce agreement and, to a certain extent, what a judge orders in your case. There are some myths surrounding college education costs and the requirements of parents to pay these expenses, so it is important to understand the facts and take these into account when planning for your divorce agreement.

Myth: Parents are required to pay for children’s college expenses.

Fact: Parents are not required to pay anything for their children after those children turn 18, although there may be exceptions to this rule. For example, if a child is judged to be incapable of taking care of himself or herself, a judge could rule that the parents must participate in a support plan. In general, though, once a child reaches 18 the parent’s responsibility ceases.

Myth: I can force my spouse to pay my child’s college expenses.

Fact: It is very difficult to force anyone to pay for anyone else’s college expenses. College is considered a luxury, not a necessity, in this sense. Furthermore, there are many programs available for those who do not have the money to pay for college, so students are able to access loans and grants to finance their educations. However, the first year of college most schools will look at a parent’s income to determine the family’s expected contribution.

What this all means is that you probably cannot “force” your spouse to pay for your child’s college. However, you can place child support in a college savings account to save for the future. Of course, this means that you will not have the money available for immediate expenses.

Myth: My spouse can force me to pay for my child’s college expenses.

Fact: Just as you cannot force your spouse to pay for college, your ex cannot force you to pay these expenses. However, you may elect to contribute to a college fund and defray these future expenses for your child.

Should I Agree to Pay For College?

If you do want to put your agreement in writing regarding the children’s college expenses, be sure to discuss this with your attorney. You could be bound to do something that you may not be able to afford. A job loss, a medical problem or another issue might change your future financial outlook, so it may be best to make college contributions voluntary.

Contact the Men’s Legal Center for more information.