Who Pays the Kids’ College Tuition After a Divorce?
Typically, divorce isn’t easy. If you and your spouse have children together, divorce can be even more complicated. Custody, parenting plans, visitation schedules, and child support are challenges that need consideration.
In Georgia, most child custody and support obligations typically end once the child turns 18, but being a parent does not have an expiration date. So, if that child goes to college, takes a gap year, or wants to attend a trade school, you may question who will pay those expenses.
Who is responsible for paying for a child’s college tuition after divorce is just one of the legal mysteries Noreen Banks-Ware helps her clients solve. E.N. Banks-Ware Law Firm LLC has been helping parents in Lithonia, Decatur, Conyers, Lawrenceville, Covington, and McDonough, Georgia, for more than 30 years.
Is Paying for College an Obligation for Divorced Parents?
Georgia, like most states, requires both parents to be financially responsible for their children. The requirement pertains to parents while they are married and if they divorce. In most cases, primary custody is awarded to one parent, and the non-custodial parent is required to pay child support. However, child support and college tuition are not the same.
Georgia law does not require parents to pay for their children’s post-secondary education, so the state does not require that expense to be included in a child support agreement generated during a divorce. No parent is required by law to pay for their child’s education once they complete high school.
This does not mean that parents, whether they are married or divorced, do not pay all or some of the cost of their kid’s college education. They may pay for tuition, room, and board, or the cost of their books and transportation to and from school. Their child may still come home for the summer and during school breaks, during which time the custodial parent pays expenses.
If parents are married, they decide what they will and will not pay. The same is true if they are divorced.
What Are Some Options We Should Consider?
The age of your children at the time of your divorce plays a major role in what you may choose to do regarding post-secondary education. If your children are young, you are looking years down the road, and during that time, your lives may change significantly. Remarriage and the birth or adoption of children the two of you don’t share will impact your ability to support your shared children in college.
That being said, here are a few things you should consider during your divorce that affect your child’s college education. You should discuss your options with your child support lawyer thoroughly to understand the short- and long-term implications of any commitment you make.
- Establish a college fund in the child’s name and agree on the contributions each of you will make over time. Of course, this move makes more sense if your children are younger rather than older when you divorce.
- Develop a voluntary agreement in which each of you agrees to pay a certain amount of money toward the child’s college education. Include details such as what the money will be used for, such as tuition, room, and board, or fees. The amount each of you contributes may be based on a percentage of your income at the time the child enters college.
- Set some guidelines. For example, you may agree to split the cost of tuition 50-50 at a state-supported institution. If your child chooses a private school, the amount of support you will provide will not exceed the equivalent of the cost of the public school.
- Consider the impact the custodial parent will have on the child’s eligibility for financial aid. Federal and state financial aid is usually based on the custodial parent’s income and assets at the time of application. That may be an important consideration when determining custody, especially if the child is in high school at the time of the divorce.
- Whatever you agree to, put it in writing and file it with the court. Doing so makes your agreement a legally enforceable contract.
Look to Trusted Legal Assistance
You don’t simply stop being a parent when your child turns 18. Most parents will want to continue helping their kids as much as they can to give them a solid start in their adult lives. That means you need to look even further into the future when you are in the process of getting a divorce.
As a long-time family law attorney, Noreen Banks-Ware understands the challenge. You can trust her to provide experienced, knowledgeable, and thoughtful guidance that will help you make difficult decisions for you and your child.
Take the first step by calling E.N. Banks-Ware Law Firm LLC in Lithonia, Georgia, to schedule a case consultation.