July 22, 2011

Can The Divorce Court Make Me Pay For College?

As a divorce attorney in Portland, Oregon, we get a lot of questions about parent’s obligation for college expenses after a divorce. Can the court make me pay for college? Am I obligated to pay private school tuition? Will the court make my ex pay for private school tuition? There is a lot of misinformation out there, and this post is to explain simply a parent’s obligation for college expenses post divorce.

Children of married couples have no legal right to money for college.

Children of divorced couples have more rights. A child  of divorced parents who qualifies as a “child attending school” under ORS 107.108 has the right to receive support between the ages of 18 and 21.  Child support is calculated based on a formula based on factors laid out in ORS 20.275, which includes the educational needs of a child.  While the court can deviate upwards on the amount of child support ordered to include college expenses, the court has no authority to order that a parent pay for college as an obligation separate from child support.

Many divorcing parents negotiate deals where one party, or both, pay for college beyond the statutory obligation, however, parents are not required to do so. If funding for college is an issue important to you in your case, make sure to talk through with your lawyer what the court can order, and what is achievable only by agreement.