By: Amanda Vann, Esq.
For parents who are going through a divorce, one of the many topics that needs to be addressed is who is going to support their children after they turn 18. Even though child support payments can cease upon the child turning 18, or if still in high school upon their graduation from high school, many parents find themselves trying to conquer the daunting task of paying for college tuition and providing some financial support to their children while they are in college. If you are divorcing, this can become a hot topic issue because Maryland Courts have ruled that a parent has no legal obligation to financially support a child through college. This means that the only way to require a parent to provide financial assistance or support to a child for college is by the parents agreeing to do so.
A court does not have the authority to require a parent to contribute to a child’s expenses for college. The only time when a court can do so is if the parties reached an agreement and the agreement contains a provision requiring a parent or parent(s) to share in the cost of tuition and expenses should their child or children pursue a college education. In this instance, the court can enforce the agreement and order a parent to pay for this portion of support even after the child has been emancipated.
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Including College Tuition in a Child Support Agreement
Before deciding to include college tuition in the parenting agreement, take into consideration all that college tuition involves. The cost of most college tuitions include: room and board, books, a food plan, and the tuition itself. Additionally, the cost of tuition and expenses seems to increase every year, making it almost impossible to determine exactly the total amount of costs parents may incur, especially if your children are very young. Further complicating this decision, you can never know where you will be financially in a few years from now. Agreeing to pay for college may be something you can afford now, but can you be sure that you are going to maintain your current salary, expenses, etc., and are you willing to lock yourself into such a payment.
Most parents I come in contact with want to provide college support to their children, but I always recommend that they do not agree to locking themselves into a specific payment responsibility unless they already have money set aside and designated for that sole purpose. Otherwise, I recommend that you agree to discuss it when the time arrives because once you agree to paying a certain amount, you are bound to that agreement even if your financial situation changes.
Another option when reaching an agreement regarding payment for college is for parents to limit the colleges that the child can apply to (in state, out of state, public, private, etc.), the percentage that each parent will pay towards tuition, living expense, etc., and to set a maximum amount so that you aren’t putting yourself in a precarious situation.
Schedule a Consultation with a Child Support Attorney in Maryland
Each family situation is different, and each divorce is different. But consider the future education of your child or children when going through the divorce process and how important addressing that topic is. A provision regarding college education payment might make future plans much easier when the time comes to decide on higher education opportunities and how to pay for it.
If you’re going through a divorce and need help determining child support arrangements, Andalman & Flynn has the dedicated divorce lawyers for you.
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