Hearing that your child has been accepted into college is a proud parental moment. You see the hard work that he or she put into an education pay off. As happy as this moment can be, you may also feel some stress surrounding how a college education will be paid for.
In a recent study the College Board found that a “moderate” college budget for an in-state public college for the 2016-2017 academic year averaged $24,610, while a moderate budget at a private college averaged $49,320. These amounts are more than some people make in a year. How, then, is a single parent able to pay for his or her child’s and possibly children’s college expenses?
Under Georgia law, it is the joint and several duty of each parent to provide for the maintenance, protection, and education of his or her child until the child reaches the age of majority, dies, marries, or becomes emancipated, whichever first occurs. However, this statute does not mention a parent’s duty to support a child beyond secondary schooling. Specifically, there is no mention of a parent’s duty to pay for a child’s college expenses. This is because in Georgia, parents are not required to pay for a child’s college or postsecondary expenses. Moreover, Georgia courts cannot forcibly order a parent to pay for a child’s college expenses.
However, there is still hope in getting your ex to contribute to your child’s education. Parents may negotiate with each other to provide for their children’s college and post-secondary educational expenses through a Marital Distribution Agreement or Settlement Agreement. These agreements are legally binding and enforceable by a court of law. Therefore, if a parent decides to include a provision discussing education costs in the agreement, the courts may enforce and honor these agreements. For example, if your ex spouse agrees to pay for your 10-year-old child’s total future college expenses, the courts will mandate that your ex-spouse pay tuition, room and board, and related college expenses.
If you decide to include provisions related to education in your agreement, it is important that these provisions are clear and specific. For example, when defining the phrase educational expenses, it is extremely important to state what exactly those expenses include. Will they include travel to and from the university and home? Will they include books and technology aids such as a laptop? The agreement may also place limits on the contribution. For instance, that payment will only be made up to a certain amount.
If you have a child or children about to enter college and are concerned about expenses, please contact the attorneys at Vayman & Teitelbaum. We understand the stress that these large expenses can bring about and the determination of a parent to ensure an education for a child. Our team will work to help you.