Who pays for college?
If you were banking on your spouse helping to pay for your child's college tuition, you need to have a backup plan. Now is the time to plan for alternatives such as merit scholarships and federal loans.
When your children were young, you and your spouse may have agreed that you would pay their college tuition expenses and, if you planned ahead, you may have started a 529 Plan for them.
When you divorce, those promises to pay for their college expenses are no longer enforceable. Regardless of the incomes of the parties and ability to pay, Judges in Georgia cannot require that either party pay some or all college tuition costs.
In Georgia, child support ends at age 18, or if the child has yet to finish secondary school, child support can continue until age 20. However, there is no way to compel a parent to help pay for college absent their agreement to do so at the time of the divorce.
Most attorneys will counsel their clients against agreeing to pay for college since an agreement will become binding if it is part of your divorce agreement. Attorneys typically advise their client to avoid undertaking an obligation to pay future college expenses because there is no way to predict what their finances may be in the future. Even highly paid executives can lose their job, fall ill or suffer some other adverse event in the future that makes it difficult to pay for college.
Of course, if you started a 529 Plan, the monies put into the account must be used for your child's higher education costs. Be sure to get an agreement in place that requires both parents to sign off on expenditures for a 529 Plan account to ensure the monies are used for college.
If you find yourself with questions about your next step, speak with our experienced Georgia family law attorneys.