One of the most expensive aspects of raising children can be providing for their college education. According to the College Board, a nonprofit group, the average cost to attend a year of college in 2022-23 was $27,940 at a public school and $57,570 at a private school. With college costs rising at a steeper rate than inflation, parents who are getting divorced are understandably concerned about how to pay for their children’s education.
In New York, although child support does not include payment for educational costs, a non-custodial parent can be ordered to pay for a portion of the child’s education on top of making normal child support payments. The custodial parent can also be required to contribute as well. However, child support obligations end when the child turns 21 unless the parents agree otherwise. As such when courts order college support, that obligation also ends when the child turns 21, even though many students are in college until age 22 or 23.
A court’s calculation of how much each parent must pay toward college costs usually happens at the time a school is chosen, based on each parent’s income and financial ability at that time. Courts also look at additional factors, including:
Which parent pays the tab for an adult child’s college expenses? As with other divorce issues, the spouses have the right to negotiate and come to their own agreement on college costs outside of court. Sometimes the parents agree to keep splitting the costs until the child graduates. This often happens with the assistance of an attorney or mediator. Many parents prefer out-of-court resolutions because it saves time and money and does not leave their fate in the hands of a judge.
When working out an agreement for dividing college costs, parents often include something called the SUNY cap. This limits a parent’s college contribution to a percentage of the cost to attend a SUNY school. The student can still attend a private school or out-of-state school, but the parent would pay based on the SUNY rate.
At the Law Offices of Randy S. Margulis in Buffalo, a seasoned New York family lawyer can guide you through all issues concerning children’s college expenses and can help you devise a plan best suited to your situation and finances. Call 716-886-9600 or contact us online for a free initial consultation.
As a Buffalo divorce lawyer for 28 years, I have devoted myself to solving the problems that affect families throughout the Buffalo metropolitan area and Western New York. As a family law attorney, I make it my goal to create a partnership of trust with my clients. People put their trust in me to handle cases that can potentially have a long-lasting impact on not only their lives, but the lives of their family as well.
Alexandra M. Rockwood is a Senior Associate Attorney with the Law Offices of Randy S. Margulis & Associates and has been with the firm since early 2020. She primarily practices in the areas of matrimonial and family law, including divorce, child custody, and child support. Alexandra is a practicing matrimonial and family law attorney as…