Children of Divorced Parents—Can Bring Lawsuits for College
In some states, the court is allowed to mandate divorcing spouses to pay for their child’s educational expenses.

In most states, the family court system generally assumes that children’s parents will adequately represent those children’s best interests. With that being said, some states do allow children over the age of 18 to sue their parents in order to have their college education expenses paid for. This issue here is whether children have rights that may be enforced as a result of the dissolution of their parents’ marriage. Conversely, children coming from an “intact” family do not have any rights to sue their parents or require them in any way to pay for a college education.

Children of Divorced Parents—Can Bring Lawsuits for College?

There is a perceived special need on the part of the legal system in most states to protect the children who have been exposed to the divorce of their parents, and in some states, the court is allowed to mandate divorcing spouses to pay for their child’s educational expenses – but even if they are allowed to, it does not mean they have to order these expenses be paid on the child’s behalf. Some of the factors the court is required to consider during these cases include the child’s financial resources as well as both parents and how the child is or has performed academically.

In some cases, it may be possible for one parent to act on behalf of his or her child in order to collect college education expenses from the other parent, and children, if they are 18 years old or older, can act on their own behalf and sue one or both of their parents for the expenses they have or will incur as a result of getting a college education. In cases where the parent is acting on his or her child’s behalf, it is not uncommon for that parent to use the child as a litigation strategy in order to ensure the best possible result – in the worst of cases, a child is used as a tool by one parent to harass the other parent.

While this is not considered the most upstanding way to handle legal issues between parents, courts and family law judges are becoming more and more keen to this strategy and often do not look upon it fondly, which causes this to backfire for the parent involved. Unless there is a compelling reason for children to sue their parent or parents for college education funding, judges do not hesitate to question whether or not the suit is being used as harassment or as a way for one parent to “get back” at another parent.

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2 thoughts on “Children of Dissolved Marriages May Be Able to Sue for College Expenses”

  1. My child support has ended 10-2019 now my ex is filing for college support. will the courts take money from my pay in the amount of the support i paid every week even during the summer when he is with me

    1. It depends. In some states, college expenses are a mandatory part of a divorce case and are mandated as part of the statute. This might include paying a portion of tuition, living expenses, and other items. Generally speaking, this would not mean that the child support just continues, but it would require you to pay for whatever percentage the court decides you are to pay for college costs.

      An example would be this: son goes to State college, tuition, room and board, and books cost $20,000/year. Son gets $10,000 in scholarships and grants, and takes a loan out for $5,000.00. The remaining balance is now $5,000.00. Lets assume that each parent earns similar income (within $20,000/year or so of each other). The court might decide that the remaining balance be paid 50/50 between the parties. The court could also divide the remaining portion based on each parents income levels. So, mom earns $60,000/year, dad earns $40,000 year for a total of $100,000/year. The court might say mom pays 60% of the remaining expenses and dad pays 40% of the remaining expense.

      Sometimes the court might make one parent make a payment that looks like child support to the other parent as well An example would be a child going to local college or living at home while in school. If your son is living with mom during the school year and commuting to college, a court could decide that you should pay some amount to mom that represents your son’s “room and board”, even though he isn’t living in a dorm or an apartment on campus.

      However, while your son is with you over the summer though, you most likely will NOT be ordered to pay anything to mom because your son is at your house. An exception to this would be if it was determined you are to pay her $6,000/year for room and board for son while he is in college. So, you pay her $500/month. You can’t stop over the summer (even though he is with you) because you are to pay her $6,000/year – that’s twelve-months of $500/month.

      College expense cases are complex, best to contact one of our professionals and go over the details!

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