Modifying Child Support for College Expenses

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Contact Rebecca Cornia

San Diego, CA

Practice Areas: Family

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The resident state of the parents as well as agreements between the parents will determine how college expenses will be provided.  Some states require that the parents pay for the child’s education, assuming the child will attend college and have the grades to do so.  On the other hand, some states do not require parents support the children once they reach 18 and/or graduate from high school because married couples are not required to do so either.  In either case, it is important that the parents agree upon college expenses while drafting divorce and custody documents.

Additional Support for College

If you reside in a state that does not include support for college, there can be an additional order to include college expenses.  To obtain an additional order, the courts may require documentation from both parents as far as ability to pay.  The court may also consider the child’s ability to pursue higher education.  A parent may petition a court to modify child support agreements to include college expenses. 

  • Parents will need to negotiate financial responsibilities
  • The agreement may place limits on tuition, time in college, living arrangements, etc
  • Some provisions may place the responsibility upon the child or require the child meet certain requirements in order to maintain support

Ending Child Support after College

Generally, the support order will specify when the support will terminate.  If the support includes college expenses, whether mandated by the state or not, certain stipulations must be met before the support ends.  Examples of these may be:

  • The child graduates college
  • The child reaches the agreed upon age
  • The child discontinues college attendance or does not meet minimum grade requirements

Determining Modified Amount

Circumstances may require that the child support amount be reviewed to meet new needs.  Some factors that may determine if a modified amount may be due include:

  • The responsible parent has a significant loss of income
  • The child has new expenses including medical or educational
  • Significant changes in the income of the parent receiving support
  • Some states routinely review support orders to ensure consistency with the parents incomes and state guidelines

The modified support amount is generally for future payments only and will not be retroactive.

Getting Help with Child Support Modification

If you are going through a divorce and children are involved, it is important to discuss all details of the children’s care with a lawyer.  A lawyer will know the state laws applicable to child support as well as college expenses.  Assuming the children will be attending college, it is necessary to include the specifics regarding expenses in the divorce documents so the children will be provided for in a suitable manner.

This article is provided for informational purposes only. If you need legal advice or representation,
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