The colonization of Mars may occur before college becomes affordable. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the cost for post-secondary education continues to skyrocket. Undergraduates will pay, on average:
- $24,000 per year for a 4-year public school
- $45,000 per year for a 4-year private school
- $17,000 per year for a 2-year public school
These figures, which have been rounded, include tuition, fees, room, board, and other expenses for the 2020-2021 school year, the most recent information available. As America’s current inflation rate grows, the price will only increase.
Student loans are easy to obtain, but saddling young adults with thousands of dollars of debt as they receive their diploma can significantly delay their plans to marry, buy a house, start a family, launch a business, attend graduate school, and pursue similar ventures.
Colorado family law stipulates that minor children from divorced families are to receive financial support from both parents, and a child support lawyer can draw up terms for an equitable settlement. However, the State of Colorado does not mandate child support to extend through college. Just as Colorado cannot require married couples to pay for their children’s college expenses, so it cannot require divorced parents to finance college for their children.
When Does Child Support End?
Unless the child marries, joins the military, or has a physical or mental disability, Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-115 states that child support ends when the child turns 19. If the child is still in high school or an equivalent program when he or she turns 19, support continues until the end of the month following graduation, but not beyond the age of 21.
Can a Divorce Settlement Include College Support?
Yes, and lawyers for child support can prepare the documents to reflect parental provision for children through college. However, the settlement terms are binding, so it is important to carefully consider what is agreed to. If children are very young when their parents divorce, it may not be wise for the couple to decide to fully pay for college. There is no way to predict what the price will be when the children are of college age, nor whether the parents will still be employed at that time, or employed with a salary sufficient to contribute to college fees.
Additionally, just as young adults are entering college or vocational school, retirement begins to inch closer to their parents. Students can take out a loan for school, but parents cannot take out a loan for retirement. Trying to juggle the financial needs of both college and retirement can be stressful on families.
Planning Ahead: Conditions to Detail in a Settlement
It is understandable that divorcing parents want to help their children with college costs, but it is wise to specify exactly in a settlement what parental involvement will entail. Depending on parents’ resources, the couple may agree to put limits on college support. Some options to consider listing in the settlement might be:
- Parents cover only a part of the total cost, like tuition (students would be responsible for books, board, living expenses, etc.)
- Students must maintain a certain grade point average
- Only one vocational or undergraduate degree is eligible for parental support
- Parental assistance is capped at four years, even if students extend their studies to five or six years
- Parents will only pay for an education at a Colorado public school, not at a private school or out-of-state institution
- Fees will be paid directly to the school, not to students
- Students must apply for financial aid
Child support lawyers can provide advice on other stipulations and funding strategies. For example, child support attorneys might suggest creating a trust or opening a 529 education savings plan, to which parents, grandparents, and other family members can contribute.
Already Divorced? Negotiation Is Key to Modify a Child Support Order
Ex-spouses who already have a settlement are under no legal obligation to provide child support through college. However, if both parents are amenable to subsidizing college for their children, a child support lawyer can modify their child support order to reflect their new agreement and ensure it conforms to Colorado legal statutes.
Both parents should have a frank discussion with their children about opportunities outside of traditional post-secondary studies. Trade schools, apprenticeships, work-study programs, military service, and employer-sponsored studies are other ways to obtain a certificate or degree without incurring an enormous financial burden.
The Drake Law Firm, P.C.: Experienced Child Support Lawyers You Can Rely On
Negotiating or modifying a child support order has legal ramifications. As a parent, you have your children’s best interests at heart, but settlements need to be written with care so that your own interests are protected. Before you agree to subsidize college for your children, speak with The Drake Law Firm, P.C. Our knowledgeable team of child support attorneys can advise you which actions would benefit your situation, so that you can help your young adult children and protect yourself from financial risk.
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The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.