Who’s Required to Pay for College After a Florida Divorce?
Raising children is very costly, but sending your kids to college might be the most expensive part of raising a child in Florida. According to College Tuition Compare, the average tuition and fees for colleges in the Sunshine State are nearly $15,300 for out-of-state and almost $3,900 for in-state.
But who has to pay for college after a child’s parents divorce? Who is responsible for tuition, fees, and other college expenses following a divorce?
Does Florida Law Require a Parent to Pay College Expenses?
Unlike many other states, Florida law does not dictate which parent must pay for college after divorce. Florida family law does not explicitly require either parent to pay the college expenses of their children.
However, Florida courts have previously held that the court cannot require a parent to pay college expenses unless the parties have contractually agreed to this in a marital settlement agreement (Wagner v. Wagner 885 So. 2d 488). In other words, if you want to make the other parent pay for your child’s college or split college expenses, you will have to address this issue in your marital settlement agreement upon divorce.
Otherwise, there is not much you can do to require the other parent to pay for college after the divorce is finalized.
Do Parents Have a Legal Duty to Pay for College After a Florida Divorce?
Under Florida law, parents are required to support their children until they turn 18 or graduate high school, but there is no law that would require parents to pay for their child’s education after graduating high school.
In fact, Florida courts have previously held that a parent’s duty to pay for college is moral rather than legal (Grapin v. Grapin, 450 So.2d 853). Typically, parents must sign a marital settlement agreement (MSA) to create a legal obligation to pay for their child’s college. In other words, if your MSA does not explicitly state that one or both parents must pay for college, then there is no legal obligation to pay for college expenses.
A marital settlement agreement is basically a contract signed between two partners to outline the terms of their divorce, including distribution of assets, child support, alimony, time-sharing, and others.
For this reason, it is important to retain a skilled family lawyer to help you draft a valid and effective marital settlement agreement before finalizing your divorce. Only a well-drafted MSA can create a contractual obligation for a parent to pay college tuition and fees.
A Parent’s Contractual Obligation to Pay College Expenses
If you are planning to create a contractual obligation to pay for your child’s college in a marital settlement agreement, it is important to include clauses that address situations when the obligated parent would stop paying college expenses. For example, such clauses could state that the parent would not be required to pay for college if they lost their job or had a decrease in income.
A marital settlement agreement could also create an obligation for the parent to pay for their child’s living and housing expenses when they go to college. You should seek legal counsel from an experienced family lawyer to review your unique situation and determine who has to pay college expenses. Contact our Orlando divorce attorney at the Law Offices of Steve W. Marsee, P.A. by calling at 407-521-7171.