Parents going through divorce have many complicated and emotionally charged questions. One such question concerns tuition. Child support payments stop when a child reaches the age of emancipation—so which parent pays for college tuition?
Colorado child support laws are clear when it comes to the issue of divorce and a child’s college expenses. These are some points to consider:
- If the child support order was initially entered after July 1, 1997, the Court cannot require parents to pay for college expenses. The only exception to this is if the parents file a written agreement with the Court after July 1, 1997, such as a Parenting Plan or Separation Agreement.
- If the child support obligation was created or modified before July 1, 1997, then the parents may be ordered by the Court to pay for college expenses.
- The Court cannot order the parent to pay for a child’s college expenses at the same time as child support for that child.
- The Court can no longer order for college expenses to be paid once the child reaches the age of 21.
- A college expense order may be revised by either the Court or by the parents’ mutual agreement.
- College expenses comprise of tuition, fees, and books. Unless the parents agree, the Court cannot require the parties to pay for room and board while at college.
Under state law, college refers to postsecondary education, and includes both college and vocational education programs.
Child Support Orders Before July 1, 1997
If the Court finds it appropriate, the court shall terminate child support and instead issue an order that requires both parents to contribute towards the costs of a child’s postsecondary education. When determining the amount each parent shall contribute, the Court is limited to an amount that does not exceed the basic child support obligation for the child receiving postsecondary education.
The parents shall then contribute to the sum determined by the Court according to their adjusted gross incomes. This amount to be contributed is subtracted from each parent’s gross income prior to calculating basic child support obligations for any remaining children.
Either parent or child may opt to file a motion for a college expense order at any time before the child reaches 21 years of age.
Any agreement or court order to pay for a child’s college expenses should be thoughtfully written to include relevant details such as payment deadlines, books and fees, limitations on how much to spend on tuition, how payments are to be made, and terms and conditions for the child to meet. For instance, the child must maintain an average grade of “B” to keep receiving financial support for college expenses.
While parents cannot be forced by the Court to pay for college expenses in orders entered after July 1, 1997, it is still possible to negotiate an amount that reduces or eliminates a child’s obligations to pay for his or her own college expenses.