Friday, February 3, 2012

Post-Divorce Problems: Who has to pay for College?

In Massachusetts, the court has the authority to order divorced parents to contribute something to their children’s college education expenses.  Usually the court won’t deal with this at trial unless the children are almost of age to attend college, but most agreements will address the issue in some way.

When it comes to the payment of college education expenses, the specific language that your Separation Agreement contains is very important. Many agreements require parents to contribute in proportion to their incomes and abilities at the time the college bill becomes due. However, if your agreement states that you are to share equally, then that could require you to contribute one half of the cost. How educational costs are defined by the agreement could differ greatly and the specific language of your Separation Agreement will be key to determining exactly what you are required to pay. And if you are required to pay a specific amount and you don't you could be liable for Contempt sanctions.

If the issue of payment of college is modifiable in your agreement or defined vaguely or not at all, then when it comes time to determine how the college education expenses are going to be split, you should try to reach agreement with your ex-spouse on this issue.  If you are able to agree to a change with your ex (either directly, through mediation, or through collaborative negotiation) then you can file an agreement with your Complaint and request an uncontested hearing approving the division.

If your agreement is vague and you can’t agree, then you must file a Complaint for Modification to have the court determine contributions.  If you have a specific agreement, but it is modifiable and you do not think you can afford to contribute an equal share for college, then you may want to seek modification of this clause by filing a Complaint for Modification.

If this issue is put before a Judge, many Judges are reluctant to order parents to contribute more than one third or one half of the cost of a state school. Of course, this also depends on the financial abilities of the parents.

Often child support and/or alimony orders may also be changed by a Judge if college education expenses are going to be added to the total support obligation.

Click here to learn more about filing a Complaint for Modification.

1 comment:

  1. I love that children of- non divorced parents have no college guarantee, but once again crooked family court will overstep there bounds, ignore Constitutional rights, and force people to pay. Many people pay for there own educations and many dont attend college. Just one more illegal overstepping by "family " court.


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