Parents who divorce usually work out how they plan to provide for their child during the divorce or custody negotiation. However, the specifics are not always as clear when it comes to college education. This is especially true for parents who split while the child is still quite young and his or her potential college education is still many years away.

If parents do not have a working agreement for how to pay for a child’s higher education, then they may face serious conflict when it comes time for that child to move beyond high school and enter college. In Connecticut, state laws indicate that parents must share college expenses for a child who enrolls and gains acceptance to an accredited educational establishment, usually until the child graduates.

If you have concerns about your own educational support obligations, or if you believe that your child’s other parent should help support your child in his or her higher education, it is wise to carefully examine your circumstances in light of the law. With careful planning, you can make sure that your child’s needs get met while protecting your own rights and privileges.

What does the law have to say?

These requirements are state specific, so the advice of your cousin who is a lawyer in Miami may not prove as useful or legally airtight as you might hope. Here in Connecticut, parents and fathers who receive paternity orders are legally obligated to support the child’s educational costs until the age of 23.

It is worth noting that this law only applies to parents who entered into the first relevant child support agreement for a given child after October 2, 2002. While this includes many children, a child who is only entering college now, or in the fall of 2018, may not qualify under this law.

If a child chooses to attend a non-accredited college or vocational program that cannot provide proper documentation of its validity, the parent might not be responsible for bearing the burden of educational support.

What factors may mitigate a parent’s obligation?

Like other forms of child support, courts do not prefer to order support at levels that parents simply cannot provide. If you face a potential support order that you cannot afford, be sure to make this clear to the court, and request a modification before the order finalizes.

Circumstances that may justify a modification may include

  • Significant loss of income
  • High-cost medical needs
  • Loss of employment
  • Extreme financial complications

However you choose to address your support issue, do it sooner rather than later. The longer you wait, the fewer options you have, and the more difficult it is to protect your rights while providing the best life you can for the child that you love.