Like other states, Hawaii uses standard child support guidelines (CSG) to help parents calculate what they will need to pay in the event of a divorce or parental separation. Amounts vary, but in general are based on the number of children a couple has, each parent's earned income and the amount of time children spend with each parent.
Even with these guidelines, some parents may find the basic amount does not fully cover their children's specific needs. This is particularly true if your children have been accustomed to private schooling. As a soon-to-be or newly single parent, you might be asking yourself: Can child support cover private school tuition?
Coloring outside the lines
Hawaii child support laws stipulate that parents must financially support their children until they come of age (usually at 18). The CSG therefore offers parents help in determining how much each will contribute following divorce or separation. In general, child support should cover all of a child's basic needs like food, clothing and shelter. It's also generally assumed to cover typical child-related expenses, like school activities, supplies and related expenses.
However, there is no law mandating that child support cover private school fees. Parents who are concerned about paying for private education may need to work out alternative arrangements to cover these costs. Parents who can afford it may agree to deviate from the CSG as long as their final agreement does not fall below the minimum standard amount set by the guidelines (currently $77 per month per child).
What if we don't agree on private education?
Problems often arise if one parent wants children to attend or continue attending private school and the other does not want to pay for it. In such cases, the court may be asked to rule on the matter or modify existing support orders to accommodate the request. Judges may decide the matter based on the following factors:
- The payor's ability to help with private school tuition
- Whether children were attending a private or parochial institution before the divorce or separation
- Whether parents had any prior agreements (spoken or written) regarding private education
- If a child's special needs can only be addressed through private education
Hopefully, both parents want their children to have the best education they can possibly have, thereby avoiding a legal fight. Many single parents can also take advantage of tuition assistance, financial aid and scholarship programs offered by private schools.
The point to remember is that if private education is an important factor in your divorce or custody matter, it's best to bring up the issue sooner rather than later. Many private schools have strict deadlines for both general admission and financial aid applications. It's best to work out these details as far in advance of those deadlines as possible.