The Inner Workings of a Law Firm

The Inner Workings of a Law Firm

Can You Be Forced To Pay Support For A Child That's In College Or Vocational School?

by Jo Rodriquez

Child support is both a legal and moral obligation—but many people feel that the obligation should stop once the child turns 18, or at least when the child graduates high school, if that's a little later. However, not all courts agree on this issue—some will order parents to contribute to a child's college expenses as well. Learn more about when college support is ordered and what that might mean.

Your state's laws may determine whether or not college support is an issue.

Each state has its own laws regarding child support, which can greatly affect whether or not you have to be concerned about any legal order to pay college support. For example, in Arizona, all legal duty to provide support ends once the child turns 18. However, Connecticut law allows the court to order support through the age of 23 for the purpose of obtaining a bachelor's or vocational degree.

College support may be a conditional order, not automatic.

Even in states that can impose a college support order, the order is usually conditional. That means that the court looks at several different factors before deciding if the order is appropriate:

  • Would you have been likely to contribute toward your child's college or vocational education if you hadn't gotten divorced?
  • What is your educational level? What about your ex-spouse? If you and your ex-spouse both have college degrees, you're more likely to be expected to contribute toward your child's education as well.
  • Did you and your ex-spouse have an agreement regarding college or vocational expenses?
  • Are your child's academic goals and achievements likely to result in a degree?
  • Is there other available financial aid for the child?
  • Have your finances changed in some way that would make it impossible for you to contribute toward your child's college expenses?

Courts may also take into account your relationship with the child in question. If you've been generally estranged from the child for years, the court may decide that your obligation for support ends at 18. 

Your child may choose to press the issue if you refuse to pay support.

There have been situations where a child over the age of 18 has pressed the issue of college support independently. For example, 21-year-old Caitlyn Ricci sued both her parents for college support after they declined to assist her higher education goals. While her mother had been her primary caretaker, Caitlyn had become estranged from her mother and moved in with her grandparents. As a resident of New Jersey, however, Caitlyn had legal standing to sue because that state allows for college support under the right circumstances.

It's important that you understand whether or not your obligation for support can continue if your child chooses to go to college or vocational school. If you haven't reviewed the terms of your support agreement or are unsure of the law and the issue is coming close, talk to a child support attorney like Lisa Cappolella Attorney at Law today to discuss the issue.


About Me

The Inner Workings of a Law Firm

We all know that lawyers are professionals who help people interpret and work with the law, but do you know how a law firm works from the inside out? I am a professional paralegal, and I have worked in both large and small law firms during my career. I can tell you that a successful law firm needs more than just lawyers to keep it running smoothly, and sometimes things can get really crazy! Take a tour through a law firm in my blog, and find out what really goes on behind the scenes of an active and successful law firm.