As college tuition expenses continue to rise nationwide, there continues to be a concern in many family law cases about the payment of college tuition and expenses for children. During a family law case, a child’s wellbeing is often at the forefront and for many parents, that includes their educational needs too.

Negotiating college expenses can be a particularly frustrating aspect of family law litigation because under North Carolina General Statute §50-13.4, there is no legal requirement that a parent pay for the college tuition and expenses for their children. This often leaves parent’s worrying about unilaterally shouldering college tuition and expenses while the other parent contributes little or nothing at all, or a child having to incur hefty student loans.

While the law does not provide a statutory basis to require the payment of college tuition and expenses, a parent can voluntarily contractually obligate themselves to pay college tuition and/or expenses through a Separation Agreement. A Separation Agreement is a private contract between two parties and is enforceable through the court system, so a parent who has agreed to pay all or part of a child’s college tuition and/or expenses in a Separation Agreement will likely be held to that obligation, even if it was entered several years before the child actually enters college.

If a parent does agree to pay college tuition and/or expenses in a Separation Agreement it is very important to clearly define each parent’s obligation and expectation so that when it becomes time to fulfill that obligation, there are no questions which could lead to confusion or at worst, litigation. Some key points to think about are – what are the exact expenses to be paid? Will it be tuition only? Room and board? Books? Will the expenses include meal plan? Off campus living? In or out of state tuition? These questions may require extra work and extra negotiations, but they will be worth it in the end to have a clear understanding of what lies ahead.

The information provided is intended to be very basic in nature and not to be relied upon. All circumstances are unique. The family law attorneys at Vernon Law Firm are happy to set up a consultation to discuss specific details and circumstances surrounding Separation Agreement and all family law matters.