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Paying the Kids’ College Tuition: Considerations in Divorce 

Michael Fink Law, PLLC Nov. 18, 2022

One of the most difficult parts of going through a divorce is deciding how much time your children will spend with each parent and how you’ll continue to support them both emotionally and financially through this change. These decisions are unique to each family and will depend on the resources each parent is able to provide and the ages of their children. Younger children will require different support than older children, and this often leaves divorced or divorcing parents concerned about how child support figures into paying college tuition.  

There’s no one set solution to this issue, but there are a number of steps you can take now to ensure you’re on the same page as your ex-spouse when your child turns 18 and wants to pursue higher education.  

If you have questions about paying for a child’s college tuition after divorce, give me a call at Michael Fink Law, PLLC. From my offices in Minneapolis, Minnesota, I can help families throughout the area including St. Paul, Edina, Minnetonka, and St. Louis Park. 

Is Paying for College an Obligation for Divorced Parents?  

In Minnesota, as in most other states, there is no legal obligation for parents to pay for their child’s college tuition, and this extends to both married and divorced parents. Per state law, parents are only obligated to provide financial support (or child support in the case of divorced parents) until the child turns 18 or when they graduate high school, whichever is later. This typically means that most financial obligations will be over once your child is 19.  

There are some cases, such as if the child has a severe health condition or a developmental disability, when a judge may order a parent to continue paying support past this time, but there are very few circumstances where you would be forced to pay college tuition for your adult aged child.  

Obviously, many parents want to do this for their children in whole or in part, and this goes for parents who are still together as well as those who have separated or divorced. And while no court order can force this upon a parent, there are several things you should consider along with your co-parent as you navigate your way through determining child support.  

Options to Consider  

Establish voluntary agreement  

In an ideal world, both parents will work together to establish a plan for paying for their child’s higher education costs. This should include how much each parent will pay and what costs will be included such as tuition, room and board, books, supplies, health insurance, or transportation. It can be helpful to put all of this in writing so each partner is fully aware of what they’re agreeing to and so you can easily resolve issues that may come up in the future. A family law attorney can also help make this agreement legally binding and file it with the courts. 

Set up a college fund  

Another way that many parents tackle the rising costs of higher education is by setting up a college fund for their children. These accounts are ideally set up long before the child is of college age so that as they mature, they grow in value. Parents can decide between themselves how much each will contribute and how frequently.  

Choosing a school  

It’s no secret that college costs are incredibly high these days and families are looking to cut costs however possible. One major way to cut the total costs of school is by choosing a state school instead of a private school. Perhaps the two parents agree to split the tuition costs that a state school charges, but anything above and beyond that would be left up to each parent on how much they would be able to contribute or to the child to pay through loans or work-study programs. 

Filing for financial aid  

Lastly, even well-off families will often need to resort to taking out student loans to help pay for school. The key to this option is knowing who is the best person to file for it based on financial circumstances. The students themselves must apply for financial aid and the amount awarded is determined by how much or how little their family is able to contribute. In many cases, it may make more sense for the child to file with the custodial parent who makes less income. 

Knowledgeable & Skilled Legal Counsel  

If you’re in the Minneapolis, Minnesota, area and have any questions about your divorce, specifically regarding child custody or child support concerns about paying for college, reach out to me at Michael Fink Law, PLLC. It’s especially important to work with a child support lawyer if you and your ex-spouse are not on speaking terms or cannot agree on how best to support your child. Call me today to set up a consultation.