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Child support and college tuition: How much will I pay?

Imagine you've just finalized the divorce process with your spouse of 20 years. At the same time, your son is 17, and he's about to go to college. You feel that your son should pay his way through college, the same way you did, and that he'll learn a lot by doing so. Your ex-spouse disagrees.

Your spouse feels that you should help pay for your son's college tuition. Can he or she require you to do so by law?

What the law says about divorced parents and college tuition

When two parents handle their divorce appropriately, they should address issues like child support and college tuition during their divorce. Sometimes, though, divorced parents will not have addressed college expenses in their divorce agreements.

In the state of California, however, barring the existence of a previous settlement agreement made between the spouses, the child support paying spouse will generally not have to pay for the college tuition costs of an adult child. In addition, even if parents previously agreed to share college expenses in a settlement agreement, if college tuition is no longer financially required, then the paying spouse may be able to back out of the previous agreement.

Finally, another question may arise for parents who have agreed to pay for their child's college tuition. What if there is an excellent, low-cost, public university the child can attend, but the other parent prefers that the child attends a high-cost private university? It may depend on the prior divorce agreement, but generally the non-custodial, paying spouse will not have to pay the increased tuition when an equal education is available at a public university.

Have more questions about child support in California?

No child support question can be answered completely in general terms. If you are uncertain about your child support obligations, a California family law attorney can review your family's circumstances from a financial, legal and cost-related perspective to determine your legal rights and obligations.

Source: Nov. 30, -0001

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