It is surprising to many parties that they can be ordered to contribute to their children’s college tuition and expenses upon a divorce, or a parentage order goes into effect, when there isn’t a legal requirement to contribute to same otherwise. However, whether or not parties will be contributing to their children’s college education depends upon many factors, including, the parties’ ability to pay and the child’s ability to contribute.
Some parties choose to resolve the issue of who will pay for college tuition for their children at the time the judgment is entered. In some cases this idea can be cost effective for the parties. For example, if the minor children are 16 and 17 and have begun looking into colleges, the parties may want to agree to resolve college education contribution in their final divorce decree to avoid having to go back to court a short while after the divorce is entered. Additionally, when the college contribution is necessary very close in time to when the judgment is entered, the parties’ respective financial situations can be ascertained fairly accurately. Additionally, once the child(ren) know which school they plan to attend, the costs and tuition can be looked at with some certainty.
In certain situations it is better to reserve the issue of college contribution for a later date. Since the contribution amount is highly dependent upon both the parties’ and the child’s ability to contribute, you have to play a guessing game. For example, if the parties are divorcing and the children are 3 and 5, a lot could happen between the time the divorce is entered and the time the child(ren) require college contribution. Maybe dad will win the lottery. Maybe mom will go on disability. There are many things that can change in a person’s financial situation over time, and thus, it is best, sometimes, to reserve the issue until the time comes, so that the parties’ respective financial situations are fairly taken into consideration. However, this does mean the parties will be in Court again to decide this issue, absent an agreement.
There are pro’s and con’s to resolving college contribution immediately and also in waiting for the future. Whatever you decide, make sure you fully understand your level of commitment before you enter into an agreement to pay college contribution. Should you have questions surrounding college contribution, call our office to set up a consultation with one of our attorneys.