The dog days of summer will soon come to an end and children will return to school. Some will even transition to college in the fall or begin filling out college applications.  Even for parents whose children are young, the thought of college brings excitement, along with anxiety about how they will cover the costs of college.

Any parent is weighing these questions about college expenses:

  • Should the adult child have skin in the game and take on debt to pay a portion, or all of the cost?
  • Did the parents or family members contribute to college savings funds for the child?
  • Should the parents commit to taking on student loans for their child?
  • How are college expenses defined?
  • Do college expenses include college visits, college application fees, admission fees, and travel to and from school?

These questions are further complicated for parents with children of all ages who are going through a divorce. Here’s what you need to know about your rights as a parent with respect to your adult children’s college expenses.

A judge will help determine how to split costs of education in a divorce

In Massachusetts, a parent’s obligation to contribute to college expenses is not presumptive but is left to the discretion of the judge. The Court considers a series of factors in determining whether a parent must financially contribute to their children’s education. These factors include the cost of the college or university, the child’s aptitudes, the child’s living situation, the available resources of the parents and child, the availability of financial aid, and other relevant factors.

There are limits on the amount you can be ordered to pay

Under the Massachusetts’ Child Support Guidelines, no parent shall be ordered to pay college costs in an amount greater than 50% of the undergraduate, in-state resident costs of University of Massachusetts Amherst, unless the Court enters written findings that a parent has the ability to pay a higher amount. The Guidelines define “costs” as mandatory fees, tuition, and room and board for UMass Amherst, as set out in the “Published Annual College Costs Before Financial Aid” in the College Board’s Annual Survey of Colleges. The Guidelines’ limitation on payment of college expenses is recommended for most cases, but not mandatory.

College expenses can impact other factors in the child support agreement

A parent’s child support obligation may be reduced or terminated when paying for the adult child’s college expenses. However, it is also possible for a parent to pay child support in addition to paying for the adult child’s college expenses.

Whether a parent will have to pay for his or her children’s college expenses varies on a case-by-case basis.

Divorce is complicated- especially with children in the mix, and particularly when college is on the horizon! If you are a parent and involved in any legal matters involving custody and child support it is important that you speak with an attorney who specializes in the field of domestic relations law to ensure that all of your rights are preserved. Contact RFC today for help!