Sending Your Children to College After Divorce

It is common to have child support apply to minor children who are under the care of one or both parents. Where divorced families run into issues are whether or not that support continues when the children reach the age of majority, 18, but are still in school

In Minnesota, there is no legal statute or case law that requires a parent to support a child once he or she is past the age of majority. However, the courts generally realize that children are in need of a college education in order to succeed. For this reason, the court will allow the issue of child support for college students to be discussed and included in settlement negotiations.

Since there is no law guiding this area in Minnesota, it is important that the settlement negotiations have clear language in the agreement. The expected costs should not be excessive and be in line with other support costs. Your attorney should have this issue raised even where the children are very young at the time of the divorce. The negotiations should include such determinations as the percentage of costs covered by each parent, and even the child, and what those costs include.

The costs for college include not only tuition, but books, living expenses, and travel. Health insurance should be part of the discussion as well, as most insurance carriers will allow coverage for minor children who are still enrolled in secondary education. That cut-off age will vary depending on the insurance carrier.

While college costs are never certain, a good attorney will work to ensure that the settlement negotiations will include a reasonable formula for support. Whether this is paid directly to the child or the custodial parent is another issue to have hammered out.

It is a good idea to have this discussion even where children are young during the divorce proceedings. Not only will you avoid having to open up a touchy and possibly contentious subject years later, but you will also save by having one attorney handle the matter during the initial settlement negotiations rather than pay again for a modification of the order. It is also helpful in that you and your ex-spouse can discuss whether or not there had been an agreement to pay for your children's higher education while you were married, which will aid your attorney in negotiating the support.