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Who Pays for College After Divorce?

Last Updated on June 1, 2022 by Benson Varghese

Are you trying to figure out who is responsible for paying for college after divorce? In Texas, child support obligations end when a child turns 18 or graduates high school, whichever comes first. That means child support likely stops about the same time the child is headed off to college.

So, who pays for college after divorce in Texas? It depends on if you and your ex-spouse have a binding agreement in writing. In this blog post, we will discuss the basics of child support and college tuition in Texas and answer some frequently asked questions about paying for college after divorce.

Aren’t college expenses part of the child support obligation?

No, Texas law does not require parents to pay for their child’s college expenses as part of the child support obligation. Under Section 154.001 of the Texas Family Code, parents are only required to pay child support until the child reaches age 18 or graduates from high school.

However, if you and your ex agree to pay for college as part of your divorce settlement, child support agreement, or a post-nuptial agreement, the court will usually enforce that agreement – which is sometimes referred to as a “college support agreement.” For example, if you and your ex agreed in writing that you would pay 60 percent of the child’s college expenses and the other party would pay 40 percent, that agreement can be upheld by a Texas court.

What should be included in a “college support agreement?”

College support agreements can be included in a divorce decree or it can be a stand-alone contract. At the very least, a college support agreement should contain a definition of what the parties consider “college;” the term of coverage; what expenses qualify (tuition, books, housing); and to whom payments will be made.

What if we only had a verbal agreement about paying for college after divorce?

Verbal agreements are not enforceable in court. If you and your ex made a verbal agreement about child support and college tuition, it cannot be enforced by a judge. To make sure your agreement is enforceable, it must be in writing.

What if we don’t have a written agreement and can’t agree on who should pay college expenses?

If the parents have an agreement in writing that provides for college expenses, then the court will generally enforce that agreement. However, if the parents do not have an agreement, the court does not have the authority to order either parent to pay for the child’s college education.

Paying for College after Divorce – Recap

The Texas Family Code does not address college tuition for good reason. The Code is primarily focused on providing for minors – individuals under the age of 18 (but longer if the child has not graduated from high school).

Texas courts will, however, enforce marital settlement agreements and post-nuptial agreements – so at the time of divorce, this is an important matter to consider and try to resolve. It often makes sense to set up this type of contractual obligation at the time of divorce.

If you are considering an agreement regarding college tuition, you should consider including:

  • the percentage each parent is responsible for paying;
  • a ceiling or cap with regards to the total amount for which each parent is responsible;
  • whether or not the parent will pay for any college or set limitations such as private, public, or within a set geographic area.

Questions about child support and college tuition?

If you have questions about paying for college after divorce or seeking a college support agreement, it’s important to contact an experienced family law attorney in your area. An attorney can help you understand your rights and options under the law. If you reside in North Texas and would like to schedule a consultation with an experienced family law attorney, please call Varghese Summersett Family Law Group at 817-900-3220.

Turner Thornton
Turner Thornton
Turner Thornton is a well-known family law attorney in Fort Worth who leads the Varghese Summersett Family Law Group. Turner has successfully guided hundreds of individuals and families through the most trying period of their lives as a skilled negotiator and savvy litigator. Turner Thornton concentrates his practice on family law, including divorce, child custody, contempt, and modification cases. He is experienced in handling estates with significant and unique assets that can be difficult to value. He finds amicable resolutions where possible to conserve his client's resources, but knows how to take the gloves off if the situation calls for it. He has had remarkable results in and outside of the courtroom based largely on his ability and desire to understand his clients' needs and guide them on the pathway to what success looks like for them.

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