Forward Thinking Family Law Since 1994

College for the Children After Divorce

In Michigan, the divorce court has jurisdiction over children until they turn 18 years or graduate from high school, whichever occurs later.  What about funding their college education?

Whether parents divorce or not, they are not legally obligated to pay for their children’s college education.  Doing so is purely voluntary.  However, as part of a divorce, when the trust between parents may not be high, they can agree to:

Have one parent pay for college

Share the expenses in some way; each pay half, or each pay in proportion to their respective incomes

Pay just tuition, or pay tuition, room and board, and/or books and any other expenses.

They can specify that the child must first apply any financial assistance and savings and then they will assist them.

There are many options for parents.  This presents the parents with an opportunity to discuss their aspirations for their children and how each wishes to support their children.

Once the parents reduce their agreement to writing and include it in a settlement agreement or in a judgment of divorce, it becomes the order of the court.  This means that the agreement is enforceable by one of the parents against the other.

Why would parents want to commit to making such a future payment?

It lets the child know that you are committed to their further education.

It permits each parent to plan realistically with the child what their college education will look like. (Can they afford a private college, or consider a state university or community college?).

The child can actively seek activity related scholarships and focus on earning them.

The terms of the agreement gives them input into limiting their financial commitment.  For example, the parent can agree to contribute to the cost of an in-state college rate for a maximum of 4 years.

The agreement can say that if either parent suffers financial reverses, the terms can be modified.

Parents do not have to commit to supporting their children after high school.  If the parents are college educated, many do wish to assist their children achieve bachelor’s degrees.  As part of the mediation process or the collaborative process, parents can fashion agreements that reflect their values and helps their children plan for their futures.