College student holding folder and smiling.

Which Parent Pays for College After Divorce?

Many factors determine how the court will split funds and assets during a divorce, including who will pay for college. The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities states that individuals with a bachelor’s degree are half as likely to be unemployed compared to their peers who only have a high school diploma. This fascinating statistic encourages many parents to ensure their child is on track to attend college, posing the question: who will pay for their tuition?

Unfortunately, there is not a straightforward answer to this. This decision can be made in many different ways, and varies from state to state. In this blog, our attorneys outline the possible outcomes of determining who will pay for their child’s tuition in Hawaii.

Does The Court Have Authority to Order Divorced Parents to Pay for Tuition?

About half of the states in the union have laws to give the court system authority to order a parent the responsibility of paying for college.

A short list of some states that have these laws in place include:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Georgia
  • Washington

If a state does not require divorced parents to pay for college and all child support stops at graduation from high school or 18, an agreement can still be made between the parents whereby the terms will be enforced.

Determining Who Will Pay

When the court determines whether a parent will pay for college, they look at the circumstances surrounding the child’s needs, interests, independent resources, and each party’s financial ability, among other factors. When a judge looks at the facts in each unique case, they will not force a parent to pay if they can’t afford it. Every judge is different, and whether they view an individual as financially stable is up to their discernment.

Factors Considered

The judge will look at income and assets when determining if a parent is financially stable enough to pay for college. At the time of divorce, if the parent has an income, house, and 401(k), the judge will look at the individual’s expenses and income to determine whether they are obligated to contribute. If the individual has an income and no house, their remaining assets will be the determining factor.

If the judge determines the assets are not worth enough to cover the expense of college, it will be left to the child to pay down their loans. Most often, the judge will deem it unfair to force an older individual to use their retirement to pay for college. Judges leave the responsibility to the child because they have a longer future to accumulate earnings that can repay the loans financed when acquiring their degree.

Contact the experts at Coates Frey Tanimoto & Gibson, AAL LLLC today by calling (808) 518-6376 to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced Honolulu divorce attorneys. We would be happy to discuss your case with you and provide you with the guidance you deserve.

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