When you are going through a divorce, there’s a lot you need to prepare yourself for — mentally and financially. If you share children with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse, you have to consider their future as well, including how their college fees will be handled.
For your young adult child, attending college can be a milestone. Unfortunately, it also comes with significant debt that can sometimes run into six figures. As a parent of a college-bound teenager, you may have questions about yours and your ex’s financial responsibility for your kid’s higher education.
If your kids want to pursue higher education, and soon, it might be a judicious idea to talk about their college expenses with a Massachusetts attorney like Jay Davis who specializes in divorce and family law. During your initial legal consultation, Jay will answer all of your questions and help you figure out a step-by-step plan to proceed with your situation. For his personalized and knowledgeable advice, please call Davis Law Group at 617-221-354 or reach us online.
Does Child Support Include College Fees in Massachusetts?
Under the child support laws in Massachusetts, a parent may continue paying support even after the child turns 18-years-old. This is obviously helpful for when your kids continue to live with you while they pursue their college degree or any other type of higher education, including an apprenticeship/training program.
When your child is 18-21-years-old, the court can make orders regarding education, support, and maintenance. These are separate orders. With that said, you or your ex-spouse may be ordered to help pay for college with or without being ordered to pay child support to the parent with full/partial custody.
There is one condition though: for a parent to be ordered to pay college expenses or child support, the adult child must live at home with a parent and depend on that parent for their financial needs. If the child is physically and financially independent and doesn’t live with a parent, the court will not order a parent to pay any support.
Another thing to note is that you or your ex can be ordered to pay college fees or child support if the child in question is:
- Younger than 23 years
- Lives with you or your ex (and is financially dependent on you/your ex)
- Is enrolled in an educational course
This doesn’t include a post-graduate degree — only an undergraduate one.
If you are a parent going through a divorce, discussing future college costs with an attorney is crucial. Family law attorney Jay Davis can help you come to terms with this issue in a way that protects you from future litigation and doesn’t create additional problems for your family. Contact us at Davis Law Group to schedule your free consultation via email or by calling us at 617-221-354.
How Does the Court Handle the Matter of College Fees in an MA Divorce
We recommend you check the child support guidelines on the official Massachusetts government website or talk to an attorney for more information on when the court may award college support for an adult child because every situation is different. An MA judge has complete discretion in whether or not to order college contributions or child support for a teenager aged over 18 years. In other words, it is not guaranteed.
The judge will consider several factors while making the final decision, including:
- The available resources of both the parents and the child
- The child’s living situation
- The child’s aptitudes
- The cost of post-secondary education
- The availability of financial aid
According to Massachusetts’ guidelines, no parent can be made to pay more than 50% of the cost of college fees (undergraduate degree) for an in-state student at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. The college fee in this case includes tuition as well as room and board. However, if the court finds out that a parent is financially capable of paying a greater amount, the court can order them to do so.
In order to help you gain more clarity on this subject, we have compiled a list of most important guidelines here:
- You can’t force your ex-spouse to agree to pay child support or contribute to college education too far ahead. If your child is years away from going to college, you will need to wait until your child is actually planning to attend college or an apprenticeship program soon to address the issue of support modification.
- It is completely up to the judge to determine whether parents need to help pay for their adult kid’s higher education and how much their individual contribution will be. In some cases, parents can be ordered to pay 50% each, and in other cases, the judge considers each parent’s income (after deducting child support) and then distributes college expenses accordingly. We have also seen cases where each parent and the child were held responsible for a third of the total cost.
- Generally speaking, both divorced parents are usually required to contribute to their children’s college expenses while one parent continues to pay the other child support.
Talk to Massachusetts Family Law Attorneys at Davis Law Group to Plan Ahead
With rising college costs, we understand how worrying this issue can be for you as a parent. Our team of divorce and family law attorneys at Davis Law Group recommends planning ahead with your spouse to make sure you are in control of your contribution toward your child’s future support requirements. To set up your free and confidential consultation, call us at 617-221-354 or fill out this online form.
James H. (Jay) Davis III
Thank you for reading. Need to talk? 617-221-3548