Paying for College

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Paying for College

Post  Admin on Mon Sep 21, 2009 11:55 am

As the need for a college degree increases and college costs climb, more divorced custodial parents are asking courts to require the noncustodial parent to share in college expenses for their children.

One study on children from divorced families shows that only 29 percent of them receive college support from their parents, as opposed to 80 percent of children from nuclear families.

College support may be part of ongoing child support or an additional obligation after regular child support ends.

Arizona has case law that give courts the authority to order a noncustodial parent to pay for some form of college expenses

Factors Courts Consider

Courts consider many factors in determining what contribution the noncustodial parent should make to college costs, including:

Whether the parents would have contributed toward the costs of college if the parents were still living together
The level of post-high school education of both the parents
Whether the parents would have expected the child to go to college if they were still living together
The financial resources of the child and both parents
The child's particular interests and academic achievements and goals
The ability of the child to earn income while in school
The availability of financial aid in the form of scholarships and loans
The relationship between the child and the noncustodial parent, including the child's responsiveness to advice and guidance
Voluntary Agreements

Arizona in most cases does not require a noncustodial parent to pay college expenses, the divorcing parties can reach an agreement as to how to pay for college, usually in the process of settling property and custody issues.

Agreements as to how to split college costs should be in writing and approved by the court to be enforceable.
Voluntary college support agreements should include:

A definition of college, typically defined as a four- year state university. The definition can include technical or trade schools, but should be broad enough to cover a number of possible options for the child
A definition of what expenses are covered. These might include tuition and educational costs such as books, room and board, transportation and personal miscellaneous expenses such as clothing
A limit on how long the obligation should continue, such as through a certain level of college or until the child reaches a certain age
Whether the noncustodial parent's payments will be made directly to the school, to the child or to the custodial parent
The child's responsibility to contribute toward paying expenses, typically defined as a percentage of the overall cost
Conditions that the child must meet for the parent's payments to continue, such as taking a fulltime course load, maintaining a certain grade point average and allowing the parents access to academic records
The agreement should also address the issue of how any loans or scholarships the child receives play into the mix. You can agree that this financial help lowers both parents' obligation, or you can count it as an offset toward the child's obligation to pay expenses.

When the child will be living at home with the custodial parent while attending college, it's important to carefully set out how and to whom room and board expenses will be paid.

Agreements to pay college expenses should be carefully drafted and entered into with the same seriousness you'd devote to signing any contract. It's always a good idea to consult with a family law attorney in your area before negotiating such an important legal document.

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