Do I Have to Pay Child Support While My Child is in College?
College costs can be exorbitant. A growing number of college graduates have huge student loan burdens, and a shrinking number of parents are able to cover their children’s college expenses. This challenging situation becomes even more complex when you factor in child support. If you are going through a divorce or you have a child support order in Florida, you may wonder if you can be forced to pay child support while your child attends college.
Parental Obligations Under Florida State Law
Under Florida law, the court cannot require a parent to pay child support after a child graduates from high school or turns 18. There are exceptions for children with severe disabilities. This means that the court cannot order parents to pay for a child’s expenses while they are in college, regardless of whether or not the parent is financially able to support the child. While parents in some states must go to court to terminate child support, parents in Florida have a clear end date that negates the need to go back to court.
Child Support Orders from Other States
While Florida courts do not require parents to continue paying child support while a child is in college, there are states that order parents to continue child support payments as long as the child in question is attending school full-time. If Florida courts receive a child support order from another state specifying that support must continue throughout college, they will enforce that order.
Paying for College in a Divorce Decree
During a divorce case, parents may decide to write college expenses into their divorce decree. Parents may choose to split a child’s college expenses or require the higher-earning parent to cover expenses in full. As long as the terms are written properly in the divorce decree, this is a legally enforceable contract.
Providing for a Child’s Educational Needs in a Divorce Decree
A growing number of divorcing couples choose to address their children’s educational needs in a divorce decree. Many parents are uncomfortable requiring their children to begin their adult lives with student loan debt, and they may choose to avoid this issue through a clause in their divorce decree.
If you are deciding whether or not this is a viable option for you during divorce, you should discuss your options with a divorce attorney. They will look into your financial status, your ex-partner’s assets, and other factors to figure out a fair way to cover your child’s educational expenses.
Child support agreements and college agreements vary widely. For example, one divorce decree may require the non-custodial parent to cover all tuition expenses, health insurance premiums, and living expenses until a child reaches the age of 21 or stops attending college. Another agreement may require both parents to split tuition and other educational expenses without addressing living expenses.
Paying Child Support for a Child with Disabilities
As noted earlier, there is one exception that may require parents to pay child support beyond a child’s eighteenth birthday or high school graduation. If the child is expected to be dependent on the parents beyond the age of 18 due to a physical or mental disability, a parent may be required to pay child support beyond the standard termination date.
This, again, should be addressed in the divorce decree if at all possible. This may be a point of contention between ex-partners. When this happens, the court will typically decide what is in the best interests of the child in question. If you want to protect your child with special needs during and after divorce, work with your attorney to create a divorce decree that protects them throughout their lifetime.
Contact Crystal Collins Spencer for Help with Your Family Law Case
If you are facing divorce, it is essential that you discuss your options and rights with an experienced attorney. Your lawyer will negotiate terms that help you plan for the next stage in life, provide for your children, and end your marriage as peacefully as possible. Schedule your consultation with Crystal Collins Spencer now to find out what your next step is. Call our Pensacola office at 850-912-8080 to make an appointment.