By Natalie Bower
Roughly half the states have statutory provisions or court rulings under which a parent may be required to help pay the college expenses of a child.
What Expenses Are Covered?
The college expenses covered by non-minor support usually include tuition, room & board, book fees, registration, application fees, and other costs due to the university.
Expenses may also include contribution to the child’s living expenses, transportation costs, health insurance and medical and dental expenses, as well as other college expenses the court finds in its discretion are reasonable.
Duration Of College Support
Where I practice, the statute expressly limits a parent’s responsibility to contribute to the college expenses of the child only through the attainment of a bachelor’s degree.
An order setting forth a non-minor support obligation may include additional limitations on the parents’ financial support, such as terminating non-minor support in the event the child is not enrolled as a full-time student or is not remaining in good standing with the educational institution (e.g., the child’s Grade Point Average falls below a certain threshold set by the educational institution).
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Factors Considered in Non-Minor Support Cases
If the parties are unable to reach an agreement on how to divide the expenses, then the issue is presented to the court in a hearing for a judge to decide.
When allocating financial support for college, the judge will usually consider the following factors:
1.) The financial resources of both parents;
2.) The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the parties’ marriage not been dissolved;
3.) The financial resources of the child;
4.) The child’s academic performance; and
5.) Any other factors the court deems relevant.
Discovery In College Expense Cases
“Discovery” can be utilized to obtain information and documents relevant to non-minor support.
Given the factors that are relevant to establishing an order for non-minor support, it is important for the parties to exchange information in discovery regarding each parent’s income, employment, and other financial resources, as well as documentation as to the total expenses that will be incurred for the child’s college and any financial aid that the child may be eligible to receive, such as grants or scholarships.
Additionally, documentation should be exchanged between the parties as to any special accounts that may have been previously established by either or both parties for future contribution to the child’s college, such as educational savings accounts.