Attorney, Cordell & Cordell
Because the courts typically consider children to no longer be minors beyond the age of 18, the courts cannot order a parent to pay college expenses.
This is because the courts cannot in their discretion order support for an adult.
Parties can, by agreement, include provisions that provide for the payment of college expenses, though.
However, if such a provision is included in a divorce settlement, it is not a modifiable provision.
There are only certain elements of a final decree of divorce that are modifiable: child custody, child support, and spousal support.
Post-majority agreements regarding college expenses do not fall within the modifiable categories. So entering into an agreement for the future that cannot be modified based upon future circumstances is most often a very unwise decision.
I can recall the client who came in to my office destitute after having lost his job due to downsizing. He was terribly distraught after having been served a Motion for Contempt by his former spouse for failure to pay college expenses as agreed upon in the divorce settlement.
Unfortunately, there was no way to get the client out of the obligation. The college expenses had been agreed upon and then incorporated into the final order.
Even if the judge had a great deal of sympathy for the party and a desire to help, she could not modify the college expense provision because the law in my state (Georgia) does not provide for any such discretion regarding an agreement to pay college expenses.
Therefore, you should not agree to any provision that the court would not subject you to. Once the child is an adult, the court system can no longer impose such obligations.
To schedule an appointment with a family law attorney, contact Cordell & Cordell.
Andrea M. Johnson is a Senior Attorney in the Atlanta, Georgia office of Cordell & Cordell, where she practices domestic relations exclusively. Ms. Johnson is licensed to practice law in the state of Georgia. Ms. Johnson was born in the metro-Atlanta area and has spent most of her life in Georgia. She received her Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia in 1998. Ms. Johnson received her Juris Doctor from Mercer University School of Law in 2002.