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Do You Have To Pay Child Support If Your Child Is In College?

With the rising costs of post secondary education, more and more people feel that child support payments should continue even past the age of majority. A common debate is whether it is a parent’s responsibility to pay a child’s education costs after high school or not (whether it be full or partial). Most parents feel it is a parent’s duty but it should be a voluntary decision and not one that courts include as part of the child support agreement.

Over the past ten years more and more states have decided that child support payments should continue after a child reaches the age of majority as long as the child is enrolled in college on a full time basis. This has become a big issue and tends to cause some tension between the custodial and non-custodial parent, as often the former is more willing to pay costs associated with post secondary education than is the latter.

Courts Decision

It is not an easy task for the courts to determine college costs, especially if the parents file for divorce when a child is very young. Attempting to break down all of the costs that are included with a college education as well as anticipating what tuition will be in 10 or 15 years is not easy, and therefore what courts do instead is stipulate that the non-custodial parent pay “reasonable” costs associated with college.

More and more courts across the country are figuring in college expenses when it comes to drawing up child support agreements. Although the wording is vague, the courts are finding ways to enforce the fact that child support payments cannot realistically end for all children just because they have reached the age of majority.

Most courts recognize that in this society we live in, to get a good job most individuals need to get a college education and a college education is not easily affordable for everyone. In the long run, parents who help pay the bill for college costs are investing long term in the success of their children in regards to the profession they choose to go into.

Financial Expenses

In theory this does not always work as one parent may run into financial problems or refuse to pay for college and this could mean that the financial burden for post secondary education falls on the other parent or it could mean that the two people will end up in court renegotiating another child support agreement at a later date.

Often called “post majority child support” the states that include college expenses as part of child support agreements also make it clear that the costs are not supposed to be excessive for either parent. In most cases this support is in place from the ages of 18 to 21 (or in some states age 22). The laws vary from state to state in regards to this issue. Many however do make provisions for a college education.

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