Child Support and College Expenses 

How do children of divorced parents obtain support for college expenses? Is the noncustodial parent obligated to provide the means for the child to attend college? If so, how is that amount determined? Is the amount paid to the custodial parent by means of child support meant to cover college expenses as well, or is this money in addition to the child support amount?

Educational expenses are usually included in the discussion of child support during the divorce process. States have varying rules concerning college expenses if the issue is not addressed at the time of the divorce. Some states determine that the child should not be denied higher education because of their parents’ divorce, therefore require the parents to pay for the education. In other states, college is seen as a conditional expense and parents are not required to provide support or reimbursement.

How Does the Court Determine How Much Money Is Granted for College Expenses?

The court uses different criteria when deciding whether or not college expenses should be covered by the supporting spouse. This criterion includes:

  • Would the child have gone to college had the couple not divorced? 
  • Does the child have any financial means of his or her own (scholarships or financial aid)?
  • Are the parents able to financially contribute to education costs?
  • Is the child’s standard of living compromised because of the divorce?

When considering support for education, the costs that are included are tuition and fees, room and board, books, dental and medical expenses, transportation to and from school, and any other living expenses. The amount of support expected is typically up to the opinion of the court, where all of the factors above are taken into consideration.

Financial Aid
The court requires the custodial parent to submit the FAFSA form (Free Application of Federal Student Aid), which will determine whether the child is eligible for any federal financial aid, student loans, or scholarships. Many courts will require the use of any funds offered to help lower the educational costs.

Child Support While The Child Is Away at College
If the child lives on campus, then the amount of money spent on room and board will reduce the amount necessary to support the child at their primary residence. Because of this, the court may reduce the regular amount of child support.

What if My Child Wants to Attend a Much More Expensive Private College?
The court will consider why a private, more expensive college is necessary, especially if there is a comparable public school in the same area offering the same degree.

Am I Required to Pay for My Child’s Advanced Degrees?
If graduate school was talked about as an expectation as the child was growing up, the court may determine that you are responsible for financing the advanced degree as well. The court will consider other factors when making this determination as well.

Contact a Family Law Attorney
Expenses associated with college can be extensive. If you and your ex-spouse cannot agree on issues regarding your child’s higher education, contact a family lawyer, like a family lawyer in Rockville, MD, who is experienced in child support.



Thanks to the Law Office of Daniel J. Wright for their insight into college expenses and child support.