Will the Divorce Court Order a Parent to Pay for College?

Many divorcing couples have this challenge. There is no legal basis in California for the Court to order a parent to pay for the child’s college education. However, if the parents reach an agreement regarding this issue, and that agreement is properly included in the divorce documents, the Court will enforce it.

Typically, financial aid requests are part of the college application process. The application process often includes the submission of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (“FAFSA”) form. To receive federal financial aid, the custodial parent submits this form. “Custodial parent,” as used here, is the parent whom the child lived with the majority of the time for the twelve months before the F AFSA application is filed. Obviously, it can be most beneficial for the parent who earns the least to be the custodial parent.

Other things impact this process as well. If custody is shared equally, then the custodial parent is usually the parent who has provided the most financial support. If either of the parents has remarried, the stepparent’s income may be a factor.

Finally, other financial relief may follow other rules. Private colleges may offer unique assistance plans. Athletic and academic merit awards may not include consideration of the custodial parent concept.

As always, good divorce planning is critical to the outcome.