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Who Is Going to Pay the Kids’ College Tuition?

The Law Offices of Steven E. Springer July 21, 2022

If you’re considering divorce in California and you have minor children, the issue of child support will loom large. California law expects the divorcing parents to support their child until the age of 18 or until they finish high school if they are still 18.

If you leave the decision of child support to a family law judge, that person will use a complicated formula to determine which parent pays what, based on factors like the income of each parent, the time spent with the child by each parent, child-care costs paid by each parent, and more. The judge will use the formula to determine who pays what, but in no case will the award cover college tuition or expenses after the child turns 18 and graduates from high school.

California has no statute, as some other states do, that requires postsecondary education to be factored into child support consideration. If you wish to provide for your child or children after the completion of high school, then the two of you – the divorcing parents – can create a plan as part of a jointly-agreed-upon divorce settlement that you can present to the court for approval.

Divorce is a time of stress and heavy emotions, so coming to an agreement between the two parents regarding the issues of ending their marriage – including child support – can present tough challenges. If you reside in San Jose, Morgan Hill, Fremont, Hayworth, or anywhere in Alameda County or Santa Clara County, rely on the family law attorneys at The Law Offices of Steven E. Springer to help you resolve your settlement issues.

Paying for College Expenses Following Divorce

California considers child support an entitlement deriving from divorce, but the entitlement extends only until the age of 18 or until high school graduation (cutting off at 19). As mentioned, there is no mandatory state provision to financially support a child after turning 18. Still, as loving and concerned parents, you may wish to provide for your child’s college expenses, including tuition, room and board, books, and related costs.

If you as divorcing parents agree to some sort of arrangement to provide for your child’s college education and you include it in your settlement agreement, it can then become legally binding. One or both of you may then decide it’s more advantageous (flexibility-wise) to deal with the issue on a voluntary basis – side agreements, so to speak. But, of course, then neither parent’s feet are going to be held to the proverbial fire.

To accomplish voluntary support, the two parents can use existing funds – and/or pledges of future payments – to set up an escrow or trust account so that there will be money available for college expenses. This can help prevent the possibility of one parent deciding to break the agreement in the future. The funds will have been set aside and become basically untouchable until the child enters college.

The other option is to build the college support payment structure right into the divorce settlement, which then becomes enforceable under California law. In this case, you want to make sure the agreement addresses a variety of potential issues, including tuition limits, how and when payments will be made, what expenses are to be covered, and more.

Another option for funding your child’s college tuition, which can be used voluntarily or as part of the settlement, is to set up a prepaid tuition plan. This allows you to lock in tuition at today’s rate, either using a lump-sum payment or regular installments. This, of course, requires committing to a certain college or university in advance.

Legal Guidance You Can Trust

At The Law Offices of Steven E. Springer, we stand ready to help you prepare for your child’s future after high school by setting up an arrangement to help fund their higher education. Of course, we can also help you deal with and resolve all other issues of your pending divorce. We provide personalized and compassionate legal counsel and advice to all our clients.

The Law Offices of Steven E. Springer proudly serves clients throughout Santa Clara County and Alameda County, embracing the cities of San Jose, Morgan Hill, Fremont, Pleasanton, Hayworth, and more. Reach out immediately if divorce is looming or you’re in need of help in resolving your differences.