Child Support & College Expenses

Stack of money with "For university" sticky tab

In Texas, Who Is Responsible for What?

Are you a divorced parent with children approaching college age? Or maybe you and your former spouse already have adult children in college. You may be wondering: Who pays for college expenses when parents are no longer married? The truth is, the answer isn’t simple—and it differs from state to state. If you live in Texas, parents are not legally required to pay for their children's college expenses as part of their child support order. However, this does not mean divorcing parents do not factor in college costs when developing their divorce agreement.

Keep reading to learn more about different ways divorced parents plan for and manage their children’s college expenses.

Using Your Parenting Plan as a Guide

Parenting plans provide an excellent opportunity for parents to create a plan for the college education of their shared children. When drafting parenting plans, parents should include provisions for the estimated tuition costs of their children's future collegiate experience, including the type of institution their children might attend.

College expenses can vary greatly depending on whether your child attends:

  • A public university,
  • A private university,
  • An in-state school, or
  • an out-of-state school.

If your children are young when drafting the parenting plan, consider discussing how tuition expenses will be split between both parents and include possible scales that may adjust if one parent has an increase in income. When you account for changing financial circumstances and other economic issues like inflation, you can ensure that your parenting plan positions you and your co-parent to support your shared children in their educational journeys in the manner that is best for you.

Be Clear with the Language You Use

When drafting college expense provisions in a parenting plan, it is essential for parents to be clear and precise with their language. For example, there is an important distinction between the terms “tuition” and “living expenses” or "room and board." Tuition typically refers to academic costs such as enrollment fees, textbooks, and class materials required for education. In contrast, living expenses generally refer to housing, transportation, meals, and other non-academic costs associated with college life.

By understanding these differences, parents can ensure that their parenting plans provide adequate coverage for any anticipated educational costs and can help parents get on the same page and avoid misunderstandings.

Managing You & Your Child’s Expectations

It is important for co-parents to work collaboratively when discussing college expenses with their child (once the child has reached an appropriate age). While some parents may be able to cover the entirety of their child's college costs, others may not be able to provide such an extensive contribution. It is recommended that parents define realistic expectations and create achievable plans that will help their child achieve their educational goals. This can include a range of financial options, including contributions from parents and family members, as well as financing.

Open communication and honest discussions will help build trust between co-parents as you build your post-divorce parenting relationship. Actively working to get on the same page and manage each other's expectations about what you are capable of contributing to your shared children's university education can allow both parties to plan ahead for potential obstacles and challenges.

If you are divorcing and need help drafting a legally sound parenting plan, contact the Law Office of Johnson & Gaskill PLLC. Our attorneys have helped countless divorcing parents from across Texas plan for their children's futures. We can use our experience, skill, and resources to help you and your family, too.

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