Who Pays for My San Diego Community College District Tuition Fees After Divorce?

Paying for college is becoming more expensive. The average community college tuition at San Diego Community College District is $552 per semester for 12 units. However, that figure does not include parking, books, supplies, housing, food, and other costs.

This figure can be daunting if you are a recent high school graduate. If your parents are divorced, are they responsible for paying your college tuition as part of their child support obligation?

The quick answer is “no.” Your parents are not automatically required to pay college tuition. Child support obligations are calculated by using the California child support guidelines.

In most situations, child support ends when the child turns 18 years old. However, a judge can extend child support payments until the child completes high school or turns 19 years old, whichever occurs first. 

Parents can negotiate an extension to child support while their child is in college. However, the child support payments are made to the custodial parent, not the child. Parents can also include provisions in their divorce settlement agreement regarding tuition and college expenses for their child.

Modifying a Child Support Order for College Tuition in San Diego, CA

The court may modify a child support order for a substantial change in circumstances. Generally, the change in circumstances must have been unforeseeable at the time of the original child support order. Therefore, a child’s demand for college tuition may not be sufficient to change a child support order unless there are extenuating circumstances.

However, if the child support order addresses college tuition, the terms of the order may be modified if circumstances change. For example, the child support order may require both parents to contribute a specific amount toward their child’s college tuition.

However, let’s say the child now wants to attend an out-of-state college, substantially increasing the tuition payments. In this case, the court might modify the child support order because the change substantially impacts the original agreement between the parents.

Should Parents Pay for Their Child’s Tuition at San Diego Community College District After Their Divorce?

Deciding whether to include terms for paying college tuition in your child support agreement depends on many factors. All parents grapple with the decision of whether to pay for their child’s college education and how to afford the tuition payments.

Several factors to consider when deciding whether to contribute to your child’s college education include:

Your Current Child Support Order

View your divorce decree to determine if you are under a legal obligation to pay college tuition for your child. If you negotiated terms for paying college tuition and expenses for your child, you are legally required to abide by the terms of the divorce decree. If circumstances have changed, you would need to petition the court for a judgment modification to avoid paying college tuition for your child.

529 Plans and Other College Savings Accounts

The terms of your divorce decree may require you to contribute to a college savings account, such as a 529 Plan. If so, you must contribute the amount required by the order to the plan. The college savings plan would then be used to pay your child’s college tuition.

Financial Ability

If your spouse petitions the court to include college tuition agreements in the divorce decree, the court will consider the financial capacity of each parent to contribute to college tuition. The court is unlikely to grant college tuition as part of the support order if doing so will place a parent in a financial crisis.

However, if a parent has the financial ability to contribute to college tuition, the court might consider this factor. This question often arises in high-net-worth divorces when the child attends private school and is expected to attend college.

Establishing a Trust

Parents might negotiate contributions to a trust for their child’s college education as part of their marital settlement. The trust is a legal entity set up to manage the funds to benefit the child’s college education. Funding a trust as part of a divorce settlement can avoid future arguments about college tuition.

Financial Aid for College Tuition

Some parents do not have the means to help their children with college tuition. If not, they can encourage their child to apply for government assistance and financial aid to attend college. There are many types of tuition assistance, including student loans, grants, and scholarships.

What Should I Do if I Have Questions?

If you have questions about paying college tuition after a divorce or other child support issues, contact a San Diego child support attorney for a free consultation. The more information you have, the better prepared you will be to address this issue when it arises. 

Contact Our Family Law Firm in San Diego, CA

Contact our experienced San Diego Family law lawyers at San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC today for legal assistance. Contact our San Diego office at (619) 866-3756 to schedule a free consultation.

San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC
2851 Camino del Rio S #430
San Diego, CA 92108