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What Is College Support?

Do parents have an obligation to assist with expenses relating to their child's college education? While some parents start saving for their child's tuition as soon as they receive a positive pregnancy test, others believe it's important for their children to work and pay for their education on their own. However, if a child has divorced parents, the court may order college support payments. Parents can also negotiate to have this included as part of their divorce decree.

Child support payments are payments that are made for the living expenses of the child, while college support payments are payments that are made for the post-secondary education expenses of the child. It is possible to be ordered to pay both child support and college support for the same child, although sometimes a judge will allow you to pay child support payments directly to the child instead of your ex-spouse if he is living off campus and has significant monthly expenses that must be paid.

Judges consider several different factors when deciding if college support is appropriate, such as the financial resources of the child's parents, the child's own income and assets, the nature of the child's educational goals, and the standard of living the child would have had if his parents had not divorced. If a parent is ordered to provide college support, the child receiving the support often must meet specific obligations regarding school attendance, the number of credits earned each semester, and the grades received for each class.

If you have tuition remission offered as an employment benefit, this can't be used in place of your court-ordered college support payments. Typically, courts will rule that both parents must benefit from the tuition remission.

Any Pasadena divorce attorney will tell you that college support awards are controversial, since there are no laws requiring parents who remain married to contribute financially to the cost of their child's education. Even if you are not legally ordered to provide college support payments, however, you should consider that your child's eligibility for grants, loans, and other forms of financial aid is dependent upon your income. When completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), college students must report parental income and assets regardless of whether or not they are receiving parental assistance with their educational expenses.

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