Divorced Parents and College Tuition


First and foremost, let’s get something out of the way.  No doubt you know the importance of your children receiving an education.  However, if you were still married to your former spouse, it would be up to you to make the decision to take on the expense of college tuition.  For many divorced parents, this is a matter of contention.  Understandably so.

Of course, this issue is particularly time sensitive.  Right around now, many parents are scrambling to get together tuition payments for the fall semester.  And, in many cases, the money due is well into the thousands.

In this two-part series, we will go over some important information regarding divorced parents and their financial obligations as they pertain to paying for post-secondary education.  At the same time, we would suggest reviewing one of our previous articles regarding divorce’s impact in determining financial contributions for college tuition.

Parental Obligations for College Tuition

At least once a year, the news reports some controversy relating to a college-bound student looking for his or her parents to foot the bill.  In early 2017, there was the story about an estranged daughter who wanted her mom and dad to foot the tuition bill for an expensive university.  

At the time, the daughter was not communicating with her parents and did not involve them in her college selection.  Bottom line?  The court basically said that mom and dad should not be viewed as open wallets.

In 2016, a magazine article discussed the circumstances of a Morris County teen seeking tuition payment from her parents.  In that case, the parents were not divorced but were estranged from their daughter.  The judge ruled that mom and dad did not have to assume responsibility.  Ultimately, the family reconciled and the graduating high school student moved back home.  Reportedly, she also received some scholarship money.

College tuition parental obligations should be a consideration in all divorce cases involving children.  In best case scenarios, the parents will be able to negotiate the terms of their contributions.  This is typically done after a review of the case information statements.

Without question, the best interest of the child will be primary from the standpoint of the negotiation process.  And, it will also be foremost in the minds of the court when considering tuition payments.

The parent’s ability to pay is just one of the factors involved in making determinations to set tuition payment responsibilities.  Of course, parents should also participate in the college selection process.   And, there should be some indication that the child is committed to the educational process.

Children May Assume Some Responsibility

Upon review of the financial situation of the parents, the court may determine that the parents simply cannot carry the expense of college.  This does not mean that the parents do not want to contribute.  It simply means they can not afford to do so.

So, what happens in these situations?   There may be language written into the settlement agreement and subsequent court order putting some responsibility on the prospective college student.  For starters, children may be encouraged to apply for scholarships and exhaust all resources.

In some cases, this may also mean that the student will need to apply for financial aid.  In the next part of our series, we will review student loans and divorced parents.

Contact Us

Have questions?  At the Law Offices of Sam Stoia, we offer legal advice in all aspects of divorce.  This also includes cases that need further judicial review.  Contact us to set up a complimentary first meeting.