After a divorce, non-custodial parents generally have to pay child support until their children reach the age of majority. However, in an age where further education is often a requirement for entry or advancement in various fields, many parents believe their obligations extend to after high school.
New York courts may mandate that parents pay for at least a portion of their children’s college expenses as part of their child support agreement.
Child support in New York primarily covers a child’s basic needs, such as housing, food, clothing and education up to the age of 21. The exceptions are if the child becomes legally emancipated, gets married or joins the military.
Child support often extends at least partially through a child’s college education. Based on the circumstances, judges may order parents to contribute to their children’s college education. Who they order to pay generally depends on multiple factors, including income. Parents may also specify college payment in their divorce settlements, and many agree to extend support past the age of 21 to cover all of college. The amount ordered paid by the court generally follows the SUNY cap, meaning it does not exceed the amount for a typical New York state university. Depending on the details of the original settlement or agreement, parents may be able to deduct college expenses from child support payments.
Students can apply for scholarships, grants and loans to cover their higher education expenses. However, financial aid packages often take into account the custodial parent’s, and in some cases, the noncustodial parent’s income. Parents with many assets or a high income may negatively impact their children’s eligibility for aid. Judges are more likely to order them to cover some or all of their children’s college expenses.
According to bestcolleges.com, the average cost of four years at a New York college is almost $24,000. Higher education can be prohibitively expensive. Because of this, judges often order parents to help pay for it, especially those with higher earning potential, and parents themselves often negotiate with each other over who pays.