The issue of paying for college expenses has become a major focus of child support awards and divorce settlement negotiations since the cost of higher education began  skyrocketing. Study after study shows that having a secondary degree greatly increases your earning potential. For a high school graduate, therefore, continuing on to college is an extremely important and wise investment. But as with all investments, it requires money.  The question is: who should supply that money?

Collin County divorce attorneys point out that most states end child support at the age of majority, and define that as the end of high school or 18, whichever comes later.   However, twelve states--nearly one third of the country--have laws that allow courts to order child support to cover some costs of secondary education.  Three states allow courts to order divorced parents directly to pay for the college expenses of their children.  When college expenses are included in child support awards, courts often consider: whether the parents would have contributed to the costs had they remained married; whether the parents would have expected the child to attend college had they remained married; the financial resources of the parents; the availability of financial aid in the form of scholarships, grants and loans; the child's academic achievements and goals; and the child's ability to earn income while in school. 

Although Texas has no law authorizing courts to include college expenses in child support awards, or to directly order parents to pay for higher education, Texas will, like all states, enforce proper college support agreements. A college support agreement can be included in a divorce decree or it can be a separate contract that is part of a larger property settlement.  A college support agreement is entered into voluntarily at the time of divorce, and the parties agree between themselves to the division and amount of payment for the future college costs of their children.  Because future college expenses are so difficult to anticipate--take the last 15 years of inflation in college tuition and room and board for example--it is recommended that a financial planner and/strategist be consulted when deciding to put funds in escrow or opting for an upfront lump sum payment. 

Collin County divorce attorneys recommend that a college support agreement contain at least the following basic terms: a definition of what the parties consider qualifies as a "college;" a definition of covered expenses; the term of coverage (e.g. 4 years, a certain age, etc.); to whom payments will be made (e.g. the child, the school, the custodial parent, etc.); any conditions for continuation of the agreement (e.g. that the child maintain a certain GPA, keep a full course load, etc.); contribution: if the child will be expected to contribute to expenses by summer jobs or work at school, e.g. 

For more information about paying for college costs as a divorced parent, contact Collin County divorce attorneys at Nordhaus Walpole, PLLC.