A parent’s child support obligations can vary widely depending on the laws of the local jurisdiction. The circumstances of the individual parent and the facts of the case will also affect the terms of the parent’s child support obligations. Moreover, all states make some provision for child support payments to cover educational costs. However, very few address whether private school tuition should be paid via child support payments.  Usually, state law will say that when both parents agree to send a child to private school, then they should split the cost. There is usually no clear rule who should cover the cost if the parents cannot agree.

Sometimes, if the parents cannot come to an agreement over their child attending private school, the determination will be made by a judge. In that case, there will be a hearing to determine if under the circumstances the cost of private education should be covered by child support. Some of the factors the judge will use in making this decision include:

  • The ability of the non-custodial parent to pay;
  • Whether the children were attending private schools before the divorce;
  • Prior agreements made between parents;
  • Religious background of the parties and their children (if the private school is religious in nature);
  • If the child has special needs that can only be met in a private school;
  • Lack of prior non-custodial parental involvement in the child's education; and
  • Past attendance of the parents at a private school.

I Have an Agreement With My Spouse About School Expenses But They Stopped Paying. Can They Do That?

It depends. Any agreement between spouses that addresses who is to pay the expenses for the children should be included in the divorce judgment. Such an agreement should also be approved by a court. Otherwise they may not be enforceable in court. Including the agreement in the divorce judgement creates a legally binding obligation that will be upheld in court. The agreement can also be included in the divorce settlement agreement to be enforceable.

Verbal agreements, or even "notarized" agreements, are usually difficult to enforce in Family Court. If the agreement is not in the divorce settlement agreement or the divorce judgment, then it would be difficult to enforce the agreement. However, not all is lost. In the case one parent experiences a “sudden change of heart,” you can still request a child support order or a modification to the existing order from the court.

Does My Obligation to Pay Child Support Cease After the Child Becomes 18?

Whether your child support obligations end when the child turns 18 depends on the local state laws.  Some states automatically stop child support after the child becomes 18. 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?

Litigation over child support can be one of the most contentious types of legal claims. Consulting a skilled family law attorney may be essential to protecting your rights as a parent. Also, an experienced family law attorney can help ensure that your children receive the proper financial support.