Understanding Post-Secondary Child Support

In general, child support orders only extend until either a child reaches 18 years of age or graduates from high school. Most often, orders extend until a child graduates or leaves high school, unless that child does not turn 18 until after either of those events has occurred. In those cases, support usually extends until a child’s 18th birthday. But increasingly, courts are opting to order and/or enforce child support orders that extend into a child’s college years. 

It is important to understand that post-secondary child support is an area of family law that is still evolving. As a result, there are few “hard and fast” rules that apply to situations involving post-secondary support issues. Therefore, if you have questions about post-secondary child support, it may benefit you to speak with a local firm directly. Because each support situation is unique, the local legal firm will need to understand the specific situation in order to best answer your questions and advise you of your legal options. Speaking with a legal firm about your questions will not obligate you to take any legal action. It will simply allow you to make informed decisions about your child’s support situation moving forward.

How Much Support Is Awarded?

The amount of post-secondary child support awarded varies. Each family’s circumstances are different, so there is generally no baseline or ceiling for awards of this kind. Parents may certainly choose to agree on any arrangement that suits them, so long as that arrangement is in the best interests of the affected child.

If a judge feels compelled to order post-secondary support, he or she will likely take into consideration tuition and fee amounts, expectations that the parents had for the child’s education when they were still a couple, the parents’ income and the child’s needs. Other factors may be considered as a judge determines that they are appropriate.

Exceptions and Modifications

Some states do not allow judges to impose a duty to pay post-secondary child support. In these states, parents must negotiate any support payment arrangements instead of relying on a judge to insist on a certain amount or form of payment structure. If parents cannot come to an agreement, a judge will not impose a support duty upon the parent who has a duty to pay child support more generally until his or her child turns 18.

In addition, it is worth noting that like all other forms of child support, post-secondary support orders may be eligible for modification. If a parent’s income or a child’s needs change significantly, it may be argued successfully that the existing order should be modified to reflect the change in circumstance. Modification requests may be filed with the court by either parent.

Help Is Available

If you have questions about post-secondary child support, please do not hesitate to reach out to a child support lawyer. They have extensive family law experience and would be happy to advise you. Whether you are interested in requesting this kind of support, modifying an existing order or are simply wondering if you will be held liable for payments past a certain date, they can help you navigate your unique circumstances.