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Who Has to Pay the Kids’ College Tuition After a Divorce?

Oleen Law Firm Nov. 7, 2023

When you're going through a divorce, there's a sea of questions that suddenly flood your mind. One of the most common ones we hear from our clients at Oleen Law Firm is, "Do I have to pay for my child's college education?" The answer is not as straightforward as you might think. 

Is Paying for College Required for Divorced Parents in Kansas?

In some states, the law requires divorced parents to chip in for college-related expenses. However, Kansas isn't one of those states. Here, there's no specific legal requirement for divorced parents to cover their child's higher education and related expenses. But that doesn't mean it's a topic you should ignore during the divorce process. Issues around educational expenses can be discussed along with other child support matters. Without an agreement or court order, though, the noncustodial parent won't automatically be obligated to cover college costs. 

Don't finalize any decisions without consulting a legal professional. Contact our family law attorneys at Oleen Law Firm to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help you navigate the nuances of divorce and child support.  

Options to Consider

Although there's no legal obligation, there are several routes co-parents can take to help fund their child's education. It's a complex issue, but you don't have to face it alone. At Oleen Law Firm, we're committed to providing you with the legal support and guidance you need. We've outlined a few options below: 

Establish a voluntary agreement. 

Establishing a voluntary agreement with your ex-spouse regarding college expenses is one of the most amicable and straightforward ways to tackle this issue. Our attorneys at Oleen Law Firm have found that such an agreement allows for a great deal of flexibility and can be tailored to fit your unique circumstances. 

In a voluntary agreement, both parents come together to decide how much each will contribute toward their child's college costs. And it doesn't just have to consider tuition; it can cover everything from room and board, to books, transportation needs, and other miscellaneous expenses that come with a college education. It's a collaborative effort that puts your child's best interests at the forefront. 

Creating such an agreement requires open communication and cooperation between both parties. And remember, this agreement isn't set in stone — as financial situations change, your agreement can be revisited and adjusted accordingly. 

Set up a college fund early on. 

Another option is to start saving for your child's college education by setting up a college fund or high-yield savings account. According to U.S. News, the average college tuition and fees at ranked schools for the 2023-2024 academic year are:  

  • for private schools: $42,162 

  • for public, out-of-state schools: $23,630 

  • for public, in-state schools: $10,662 

Doing this early on in your child's life can help alleviate the financial burden when the time comes for them to attend college. It's a forward-thinking approach that can make a significant difference down the line, regardless of the type of institution your child has their heart set on. 

Choose a school that's a good fit. 

The cost of different schools can vary dramatically. With your child, you can consider various institutions and explore their financial aid options. Weighing the benefits of attending a private college versus a public one can help inform your decision based on your financial situation. It's also important to consider the potential earning potential of your child's chosen career field. Remember, you don't have to navigate any of this by yourself. Just as working with an attorney is essential in a divorce, so is consulting a financial advisor during your child's college search.  

Apply for financial aid.

Lastly, exploring financial aid options can also be beneficial. Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) could determine if you qualify for grants, scholarships, or loans that can help cover college expenses. While every parent would ideally want their children to graduate college debt-free, applying for aid is still worth looking into, as it could potentially support your child's academic dreams while easing the financial burden for both you and your ex.  

Legal Assistance You Can Trust

Remember, there's no "one-size-fits-all" solution to determine how much support a parent should provide for college expenses. Factors like the financial resources of both parents, the child's academic performance, and the standard of living the child would have enjoyed if the marriage had not ended are all considered in these discussions. 

Navigating through divorce and child support issues can be complex and emotionally draining. At Oleen Law Firm, we're here to guide you, helping you understand your rights and options when it comes to college expenses. 

Whether it's establishing a voluntary agreement, setting up a college fund, or exploring financial aid options, our attorneys — Bentson Robert Oleen and Kent Ellis Oleen — are well-equipped to guide you through this process. With over 50 years of combined legal experience, we're ready to provide valuable advice and ensure the best interests of your child are taken into consideration.  

From our law firm in Manhattan, Kansas, we work with clients throughout Junction City and the surrounding communities. Call today to schedule a free consultation.