When Parents are Divorced, Who Pays for College?

For thousands of young Americans, college is the bridge from childhood to adulthood. A teenager enters college and, if all

For thousands of young Americans, college is the bridge from childhood to adulthood. A teenager enters college and, if all goes according to plan, emerges four years later as an adult with the skills to make it on his or her own in the world.

As any college student or graduate knows, this process comes at a cost. A college education in the United States can cost anywhere from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, often leaving graduates in debt for years after they complete their degrees. In many cases, their parents do what they can to help their children financially. Sometimes, this is a legal requirement. Although a college student is generally a legal adult, his or her parent may be required to cover some or all of his or her college expenses through post-secondary educational support. There is no federal law that requires divorced parents to contribute financially to their children’s college educations. Instead, each state may determine whether or not a parent may be required to do so. In Florida, post-secondary educational support orders are determined on a case by case basis. Before you go to court, talk to your attorney about how your child’s current dependency status can affect whether or not you are required to make post-secondary educational support payments for him or her.

Determining Dependency

Whether a judge will require a divorced parent to contribute to his or her child’s college expenses is largely determined by whether the young man or woman is considered to be a dependent. The judge may consider the following when making this determination:

  • Does the young adult have financial assets such as bonds or savings?
  • Is there an existing agreement in place regarding the child’s college education? This agreement would likely be part of the couple’s child support agreement.
  • Does the young adult live at home with the custodial parent or in a dormitory at school? If he or she lives in his or her own home, paid for with the money that he or she earns from a job, the judge is less likely to require a parent to cover college expenses.
  • Has the young adult been emancipated through marriage, joining the military, or other means? If so, he or she is not entitled to financial support from his or her parents.

Post-secondary education support is not child support. In Florida, child support nearly always ends when the child reaches the age of 18 and may not be used to cover college expenses. The main exception to this is for young adults with significant mental or physical disabilities.

Child Support Attorney in Winter Park

If your son or daughter is approaching age 18 and considering attending college, you need to know how his or her decision could keep you paying child support beyond the end of his or her childhood. Contact Sperling Ducker at 407-645-3297 to learn more about what you can expect as a parent of a young adult with a child support order. Our Winter Park attorneys are prepared to help you today.