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Can divorced parents be forced to pay for their child's college expenses?

college expenses.jpgA common child support issue is financial obligation to a child's college-related expenses. College is expensive, and many parents have concerns when it comes to paying for their children's education after high school. It is easy to assume that both parents would be responsible for all educational expenses after a divorce, but that is not always the case.

Most educational expense issues for child support are addressed during the divorce process. However, when there is no agreement in place, the obligation of the divorced parents to pay for their child's college-related expenses will depend upon the state.

In Pennsylvania, a child is deemed emancipated once he or she has turned 18 and has graduated from high school. Once a child is emancipated, there are no further support obligations imposed upon either parent. Because of this, neither parent can force the other to pay for his or her child's college-related expenses.

In New Jersey, a child is not deemed emancipated upon his or her graduation and his or her 18th birthday if that child continues his or her education beyond high school. Under New Jersey law, if a child is not yet emancipated, the Court can award child support to a parent that may compel the parties to contribute to that child's post-secondary education expenses.

If a child support order requires one or both parents to contribute financially to post-secondary education costs, the amount of the award is generally left to the discretion of the Court. There are many factors taken into consideration, including but not limited to:

  • The financial resources of both parents (including income, savings, and investments);
  • The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved;
  • The financial resources of the child (including financial aid and scholarships); and
  • The child's academic performance (whether or not the child was going to go to college despite the divorce).

It is important to remember that college expenses are considered a form of child support under the law. Therefore, they are subject to enforcement, modification, and termination at any time.

It is advisable to write up all the details of a child support agreement during the divorce process in order to avoid unwanted stress later on. If you are in need of assistance regarding child support or have further questions, please contact our family law attorneys. We are here to help.

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