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Can a parent be forced to pay for college after divorce?

College is expensive and can easily cost parents $50,000 or more each year. While many students are legally adults, most are still financially dependent and cannot afford to pay for schooling on their own without significant financial aid and/or student loans.

As a Colorado parent facing divorce, you may be wondering who will pay for your child's time in college. Is the parent who pays child support responsible for all college expensive? Can an unwilling parent be forced to pay?

Colorado does not force parents to pay for college

Under Colorado law, parents are not obligated to pay for college expenses unless they expressly agree to do so at the time of divorce. If either spouse agrees to contribute to secondary education costs in writing, they are legally required to uphold their agreement.

Document the extent of your desired contribution

If you are considering divorce and would like to contribute to your child's future educational costs, you may want to clearly detail what you are and are not willing to pay for. You should answer the following questions before you document your willingness to pay:

  • Will you only pay for an in-state, public university, or are you willing to pay for a private college or university?
  • Is there a maximum amount of tuition you are willing to cover each year?
  • What happens if your child takes longer than four years to graduate?
  • Are you willing to pay for graduate school?
  • Will you pay for study abroad, Greek life, class books, a laptop or any additional expenses?
  • Do you want to use the money in your child's trust fund, or other financial accounts, to cover part of their college expenses?

Early planning can pay off in the future

If you have a young child, it may seem unnecessary to make decisions about their college education now. However, carefully evaluating and documenting your willingness to cover secondary education expenses now can save you from arguments and serious financial burden in the future.

If you agree to pay for college, but fail to spell out the extent of your contributions now, the courts may force you to contribute more than you anticipated later. Remember that you are not required to document any commitment to cover college expenses during divorce. It is entirely your decision to do so.

While Colorado's divorce and child support laws may seem complex, an experienced family law attorney can explain how they apply given your family's unique circumstances.

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