Piggy bank and book, college fees concept

Who Has to Pay the Kids’ College Tuition After a Divorce?

Law Office of Shelly Jean John  Aug. 16, 2023

Under California laws, parents – whether together, divorced, or separated – are obligated to support their minor children financially and cater to their living expenses. In addition, parents who are divorced may also consider planning for their children's college tuition when establishing child support agreements. If you're a parent in such a situation, you need to consult with a highly-experienced California family law attorney for proper guidance. 

At the Law Office of Shelly Jean John, I enjoy giving outstanding legal services and advising clients in family law-related matters, including divorce and child support. I can work to understand your situation and analyze your available options to pay your child's college tuition after your divorce. My firm proudly serves clients across Ontario, Riverside, San Bernardino County, and Riverside County, California. 

When Does Child Support End in California?

In California, parents are required to continue making court-ordered child support payments until the child turns 18 years old unless: 

  • The child is incapacitated and cannot earn a living. 

  • The child has become legally emancipated. 

  • The child is still attending high school full-time after turning 18 years. 

  • The child dies. 

However, paying for your kid's college tuition after a divorce will generally depend on the surrounding circumstances of your unique situation. 

Is Paying for College an Obligation for Divorced Parents?

In the state of California, there is no law that makes it compulsory for divorced parents to pay for their child's college tuition. In most cases, child support payments will not cover your child's college education or other college-related expenses. However, if you made provisions for your child's college tuition in the divorce agreement, the plan becomes effective once your child enters college. 

Options to Consider

Additionally, since it isn't a legal obligation, it is only fair for divorced parents to pay for their child's college tuition. Here are some possible options to explore when dealing with such situations: 

Consider Establishing a Voluntary Agreement

As mentioned earlier, you may establish a voluntary agreement in the divorce settlement to cover part or all of your child's college tuition. The agreement should indicate the amount each parent will contribute, when they're required to pay, and how to make the payment. 

Also, it may include the covered expenses, a clause or provision to adjust the terms of the agreement, and the conditions the child must meet to keep getting financial support. Most importantly, make sure the agreement is properly and accurately documented. 

Consider Seeking Financial Aid

Parents may seek financial aid and grants to cover their child's college education. Common examples include: 

  • Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG). 

  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and Expected Family Contribution (EFC). 

Though, getting such grants and financial aid may depend on the custodial parent and other financial conditions. Therefore, it will be beneficial to consult with a seasoned child support lawyer to know the right parent to submit the application. 

Consider Creating a College Fund

Also, you can establish a college fund to cover your child's college tuition and other educational expenses. You may have to create an escrow account or trust where all contributions for college tuition will be kept until a future date. Moreover, there is adequate protection for college funds kept in a trust, and either parent can't violate the agreement in the future. 

Consider Cost When Choosing a School

It is always important that you consider the tuition and other college-related expenses of the private or state school you're choosing. You can also make provisions for when your child gains admission into an out-of-state school. Thus, both parents must work together and agree on a fair payment plan or sharing formula for their child's college tuition. 

Meet With an Attorney and Get All Your Questions Answered

Even as a divorced parent, it is only fair to contribute to your child's college tuition aside from your child support obligations. At the Law Office of Shelly Jean John, I have the skill and diligence to help clients navigate the complexities of child support agreements. 

As your legal counsel, I can inform you about your legal options to pay for your children's college tuition and determine the right one for your unique situation. In addition, I will work meticulously with your child's other parent and help negotiate a feasible agreement.  

Contact me at the Law Office of Shelly Jean John today to schedule a simple consultation with a practiced divorce attorney. I can fight for your family's best interests and help you make informed decisions in your child support matters. My firm proudly serves clients across Ontario, Riverside, San Bernardino County, and Riverside County, California.