Child Support Private School Expenses

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The stresses and considerations a divorced family feels concerning the upbringing of children is always an intense and difficult experience.  No where is this more true than deciding who will bear the burdens of a child's educational expenses.

Can I be Forced to Pay for my Child's Private School Tuition?

Like all divorce laws, child support amounts differ from state to state.  While all states do make some kind of provision for educational costs (generally only "required" educational expenses are listed), few are extremely specific concerning private or religious schools.  Usually, state law will say that when both parents agree to send a child to private school, then they should split the costs, but there are generally no hard and fast rules about what is to be done when both parents do NOT agree.

Usually, if only one parent wants the child to go to a private school, and no agreement can be reached privately, a family court judge will arrange a hearing to hear both sides of the case.  The judge will then consider many factors in making his final decision, such as:

If a judge considers all these factors and decides that private school is in the child's best interest, and you can afford it, then he can make you pay for the tuition.  But again, the rules vary from state to state, and some states may have a cap as to how much you can be forced to pay.

I Originally Had an Agreement with my Spouse About Schooling Costs, But Now He/She's Stopped Paying

Because education is an expense that may not be a problem until way down the line (such as when the child is only an infant at the time of the divorce), many people make verbal agreements with their spouses and assume that they will be honored.  But if the agreement is not entered into the divorce judgment and approved by a court, this is a big mistake.  Verbal agreements, or even "notarized" agreements, are usually not binding in Family Court, and if you don't have anything in your settlement agreement that spells out what each party should pay, then you may find yourself victim to the other parties sudden "change of mind."

This is why it is very important to think ahead when drafting a settlement agreement, and to have a good lawyer who can help you plan out any possibly unforeseen expenses.  Otherwise, you will have to go to family court and seek an order from a judge forcing your spouse to help pay for private school, which can be very difficult to accomplish.  

Does My Obligation as a Parent Cease After the Child Becomes 18?

This, too, depends on which state.  Some states automatically limit child support  to minors, while other states, like New Jersey, can sometimes force a parent to pay for educational expenses all the way through law school!  Therefore, the educational support of a child can become an issue with an extensive duration. 

Do I Need an Attorney?

As with most issues in family law, the ideal scenario is one where both parties are able to reach an agreement.  But when that is not the case, you will need a good Family or Divorce attorney to help you draft a proper settlement, or to have your previous settlement altered to enable to you better educate your children.  

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Last Modified: 06-27-2013 02:26 PM PDT

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