Open Accessibility Menu
Committed To Developing The Best Solution For Your Family

Understanding College Expenses

An area frequently overlooked in divorce negotiations is that concerning college expenses. Colorado law in this area has changed numerous times over the years, so you can’t rely on your friend’s advice who went through their divorce ten years ago, as the law was different then. Because the law is rather complex based upon the year of the divorce, it’s a good idea to consult with an attorney if you have questions regarding college expenses.

For all divorces after July 1, 1997, child support continues until the child reaches 19, or is emancipated earlier (although there are some exceptions if the child is still in high school and has not yet graduated). Beyond age 19, though, parents are not obligated to pay child support unless the child is mentally or physically disabled such that they cannot care for themselves independently.

Thus, for all child support orders entered after July 1, 1997, the court cannot order a parent to pay for college or post-secondary education expenses. However, there is nothing that prevents a parent from agreeing anyway to pay for college expenses. In this case, as long as the agreement is in writing and signed by the court, the agreement will still be enforceable. Such a voluntary concession can be used as a negotiating point in settling other matters in your case.

If a child support order was entered prior to July 1, 1997, it is proper for a court to order either or both parents to contribute to college expenses if it finds that it is appropriate to do so under the circumstances. However, in such a case the child support obligation should cease if educational expenses are to be paid – there cannot be both an order to pay child support and to pay college expenses. And, the parent’s college expense obligation should not be more than what he or she would have been contributing based upon the child support formula. Additionally, pursuant to this earlier statute, a child could petition the court for an order of payment of postsecondary school expenses.

If you and your spouse have an agreement regarding payment of postsecondary expenses, it’s a good idea to carefully specify the conditions. For example, does the obligation continue until the child has a four year degree, or for four years following high school graduation? What if the child takes a year off? And, is the payment conditional on the child attending a certain school, such as a public university?

Although for new divorces the commitment to pay college expenses is a voluntary agreement, this is a crucial and important area when it comes to your child’s future. A voluntary agreement in this area may help promote settlement in another area of the divorce settlement.

We Care about our Clients, our Team and our Community

  • Our Clients You come to us for guidance, support and assistance at a trying time. We take this responsibility very seriously. You deserve a high level of service and excellent legal representation. WE CARE about your challenges, solutions and process for resolution.
  • Our Team We celebrate the many individual strengths that make up The Harris Law Firm team. We encourage growth while also promoting a collaborative working environment. WE CARE about our team and strive to ensure an environment of collegiality, appreciation and consistent professional development.
  • Our Community The Harris Law Firm supports the legal, local and international community. Through deliberate strategic giving efforts, we work together to bring strength, happiness and empowerment to Colorado and beyond. WE CARE about our role in the world around us.

Contact Our Colorado
Family Law Firm

If you are in need of a compassionate, skilled, and experienced Colorado family law attorney, The Harris Law Firm can help. If you have a legal question about a domestic relations issue, including divorce and the allocation of parental rights, please complete our contact form below. A member of our legal team will be in touch with you soon to arrange a private consultation with one of our experienced attorneys. Together we can find a resolution.
  • Please enter your first name.
  • Please enter your last name.
  • This isn't a valid email address.
    Please enter your email address.
  • This isn't a valid phone number.
    Please enter your phone number.
    You entered an invalid number.
  • Please enter a message.
  • Please make a selection.