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Do Divorced Parents in Pennsylvania Have to Pay Child Support for College Tuition?

Over the years, college students across the United States have sued their parents to pay for their school tuition and other expenses – sometimes successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully. But can a Pennsylvania court order divorced parents to cover their child’s college costs?

The short answer is no, unless an agreement is made to the contrary, but the answer is more complicated than that.

Once a child turns 18, he or she is considered a legal adult. Child support obligations generally terminate on that date or upon the child’s graduation from high school, whichever is later. A Pennsylvania law, 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. §4327, that allowed courts to order divorced and separated parents to pay for their children’s post-secondary education was found unconstitutional in 1995.

However, divorcing couples with minor children often factor the responsibility of paying for college into their settlement agreement, which means the obligation continues beyond the child’s coming of age. For example, if a separating couple decides that they will evenly split net college costs (exclusive of financial aid and scholarships), each parents must pay their share of the bill. An uncooperative party may be subjected to a court order forcing him or her to make payments and perhaps imposing penalties for delinquency.

A lot can change between the time a divorce is finalized and minor children reach college age. What seemed like a reasonable agreement several years ago may not work out under changed circumstances. For example, a child may choose to attend a prohibitively expensive college or one far away, with resultant increased living and transportation costs. Parents who once had abundant incomes may no longer have the ability to uphold their end of the agreement. In these instances, it is possible to petition for a modification to the original court order.

If you are a parent considering a divorce in Pennsylvania, or if you are a divorced parent with concerns about paying for your adult child’s college education, you will benefit from speaking with an experience family law attorney at The Law Offices of Jennifer Courtney & Associates, P.C. in Yardley. We help parents in Bucks County and the surrounding areas grapple with all forms of child support issues. To schedule your initial consultation, call us at 215.493.3360 or contact us online.

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