If you’re headed toward divorce and you have minor children, you may be wondering about college expenses. Are you legally obligated to pay for your child’s college? Can the courts force you to pay for your child’s college education?
In Pennsylvania, parents are required to pay child support until their children reach the age of 18, or until they graduate high school. Parents are NOT legally required to pay for a child’s college expenses. So, your obligation to support your child ends when he or she turns 18 or graduates high school, whichever happens later.
You can however, agree to pay your child’s college expenses via a postnuptial agreement or through your divorce settlement. But, many divorce attorneys advise against this practice unless the individual is wealthy. If you are considering entering into a contractual agreement to pay your child’s college expenses, be sure to consider these possibilities before signing on the dotted line:
- What if your child decides to attend a trade school instead of a four-year college?
- What if your child earns a full scholarship to an in-state college?
- What if your child decides to major in something like art, entrepreneurship or drama when you want him or her to study something like business, economics, law, or medicine?
- What if your child can’t decide on a major and they stay in college beyond the standard four years?
- What if your child stops talking to you?
- What if you don’t like the school your child and the other parent choose?
- What if you refuse to pay expensive tuition?
Essentially, if you agree to pay your child’s college expenses, it’s important to consider all of the possibilities and discuss them with your divorce attorney. The goal is to have your attorney address your concerns in a clearly drafted property settlement agreement. This way, you can discuss the possible changes in the future and hopefully prevent disputes before they arise.
Recommended reading: “PA Child Support Laws Beyond 18.”