Allocation of Contribution Towards College Expenses

  • By:Karpenski & Schmelkin

Paying for college is an issue that regularly concerns parents, and many begin planning for it when their children are young through savings accounts, 529 accounts, and other means. For divorcing parents, however, paying for college poses other challenges. Who pays for the college expenses when the parents are divorced? How will college savings accounts be used? There is no “one size fits all” answer. Several factors need to be examined in order to determine the allocation of contribution towards college expenses.

Understand the MA Child Support Guidelines

Before you can understand how the allocation of contribution concerning college expenses is determined, it helps to first understand the rules concerning child support in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. However, it is important to note that the issue of college expenses is not completely settled by viewing child support guidelines alone.

In general, the court needs to decide if a child over the age of eighteen is eligible for child support:

In determining whether to order child support for a child age 18 or older, the Court shall consider the reason for the child’s continued residence with and principal dependence on the recipient, the child’s academic circumstances, the child’s living situation, the available resources of the parents, and each parent’s contribution to the costs of post-secondary education for the child and/or other children of the family. The Court may also consider any other relevant factors. (Section II. F. 3.)

Items the Court May Consider When Deciding on Allocation of College Expenses

Often divorced/divorcing couples are able to agree on how to allocate payment of their child(ren)’s college expenses. If the court needs to step in and determine how to allocate college expenses between the parents, the following factors will likely be considered:

  • Child Support.
  • Choice of College. How is the decision of which college made among the parties and the child?
  • Responsibility of Expenses. Is it expected that the parents will pay for all of the expenses or will the child pay for some of his or her own expenses?
  • Standardized Tests. Who is expected to be responsible for expenses concerning standardized tests, such as the ACTs or SATs?
  • College Visits. Are the parents expected to pay the expenses related to visiting colleges?
  • College Information. The court will need to know where the child will attend college, including any relevant tuition, supplies and housing information.
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst Cost Standard.
  • The Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines.

The Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines specifically provide:

In determining whether to order contribution to post-secondary educational expenses, the Court shall consider the cost of the post-secondary education, the child’s aptitudes, the child’s living situation, the available resources of the parents and child, and the availability of financial aid. The Court may also consider any other relevant factors.

No parent shall be ordered to pay an amount in excess of fifty percent of the undergraduate, in-state resident costs of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, unless the Court enters written findings that a parent has the ability to pay a higher amount. Costs for this purpose are defined as mandatory fees, tuition, and room and board for the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, as set out in the “Published Annual College Costs Before Financial Aid” in the College Board’s Annual Survey of Colleges. (Section II.G).

In addition to the above information, the Court may also determine if aid from the parents will continue in the case of a poor academic record, whether or not the child is expected to receive financial aid, and whether or not both parents will be able to view the child’s academic records. There are many factors a Court may consider when determining who will pay for a child’s college expenses. Each case is fact specific. For assistance, contact an experienced Massachusetts law firm, such as Karpenski & Schmelkin Divorce and Family Law Attorneys.

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Posted in: Child Support