Am I Legally Obligated to Pay My Child’s College Expenses?

Given the ever-skyrocketing costs of a college education, divorced parents often wonder whether they are legally obligated to pay college tuition for their children. In fact, New York is one state that does allow a court to order college tuition payments. Domestic Relations Law §240(1- b)(c)(7) states:

(7) Where the court determines, having regard for the circumstances of the case and of the respective parties and in the best interests of the child, and as justice requires, that the present or future provision of post-secondary, private, special, or enriched education for the child is appropriate, the court may award educational expenses. The non-custodial parent shall pay educational expenses, as awarded, in a manner determined by the court, including direct payment to the educational provider.

Factors the court considers include:

  • The educational level of the parents
  • The parents’ income and other financial resources
  • The academic aptitude of the child

If the court orders college expense payments, a noncustodial parent must pay a pro rata portion of the whole bill. Of course, total expenses can vary tremendously based on whether the child attends a private university or a branch of SUNY.

Many parents believe that the court imposes a SUNY cap that limits their obligation to the level of state college tuition. However, that is not exactly the case. If a parent has entered into a divorce settlement that sets college payments at SUNY levels, the court will generally enforce that agreement. But in the absence of an agreement, a New York court will not rule out imposing the payment of private school tuition.

If you have questions about any of your child support obligations, Bryan L. Salamone & Associates, P.C. can help. As Long Island’s largest and busiest divorce and family law firm, we fight aggressively for parental rights.

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