NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

After Couples Split, Who Pays the College Bills?

August 5, 2003

As if divorces aren't bad enough, ex-spouses sometimes refuse to contribute toward the college tuition costs of their children. It has become such an issue that some states have passed laws that can force parents to pay, and many state courts have issued rulings that do the same thing.

  • Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have rejected the traditional rule that child support ends at the age of 18 -- clearing the way for a divorced parent to ask the courts to require the other parent to pay for college.
  • However, courts in Pennsylvania have ruled that forcing divorced parents to pay is unconstitutional.
  • Legal experts point out the anomaly of forcing divorced parents to pay for their offsprings' college, when married parents are not required to do so.

Experts say that divorcing couples should reach an agreement on college while negotiating the settlement. They point out that if the custodial parent alienates the child against the other parent, that may come back to haunt them when the question of paying for college arises.

Source: James Schembari, "When It Comes to Child Custody, Who Pays for Yale?" New York Times, July 27, 2003.


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