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Parents not required to pay for post-secondary education

In a custody arrangement that involves child support payments, is it fair to require that a parent pays for a college education? An Oct. 6 report looked into this question as it could come up in court.

It's not possible for the court to require separated or divorced parents to pay for their children's undergraduate degrees. In 1995, the the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that this was unconstitutional. Since that ruling, no court in the state has been able to make a parent pay for his or her child's college education.

Despite this, the Pennsylvania legislature hasn't had the statute repealed. A parent's obligation to provide for a child ends when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever is later, and there is no further requirement. At that point, a parent has fulfilled the obligation to provide a minimum education to prepare the child for life. If a spouse attempts to seek payments for college, that should not be allowed by the court.

Why should a parent not have to pay for a college education?

The fact is that child support is supposed to help children as they are on their way to becoming adults. In situations where children have both parents, that in itself doesn't always guarantee that the child will go to college and have college paid for by their parents. There is no entitlement to a post-secondary education simply because two parents get a divorce. When the law was made unconstitutional, it also remove the court's ability to order parents of any kind to pay for a child's college education.

If you've been asked to pay for college, know that you do not have the obligation to do so. You can choose to, but if a court rules that you have to, you can have the ruling overturned.

Source: The Legal Inelligencer, "Requiring Parents to Pay for College Education is Unconstitutional," Charles J. Meyer and Scott J.G. Finger, Oct. 06, 2016

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