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When divorce and college pursuits intersect

On Behalf of | Jul 12, 2023 | Divorce |

Divorce combines legal complexities with emotionally-charged issues where soon-to-be and current ex-spouses may not always be at their best. When it comes to money-related matters, problems can go from bad to worse.

The spouse who does not have custody is required to provide financial support to their minor children, usually until the minors turn 18 or graduate high school. Certain exceptions exist, notably if the offspring cannot support themselves.

The obligations of parents

Just because a child moves away from home to an on-campus setting, the courts do not consider them emancipated, let alone self-supporting. Divorced parents still have an obligation to pay for post-high school educational pursuits until they secure their degrees.

Educational and general living expenses are part of the divorce process and include:

  • Tuition
  • Room and board
  • Books
  • General living expenses
  • Transportation/parking
  • Healthcare and insurance

Lacking an agreement or court order, state law dictates who pays. Some states mandate that divorced parents pay for academic pursuits post-high school. Family law judges in Massachusetts often order, but not mandate, that parents contribute to college costs. Court orders may be necessary when the child is about to attend or already attending college.

Various factors come into play and include:

  • Finances of parents that have income, investments, and savings
  • Financial resources for the child, specifically scholarships and financial aid
  • A child’s standard of living that replicates the standard during the marriage

The availability of financial aid is a significant factor in child support amounts. Should the child be entitled to financial assistance, scholarships, and loans, custodial parents should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Should they receive financial help, courts will require children to accept them to reduce costs associated with post-secondary pursuits.