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

Caleb Bland Law, PLLC Jan. 26, 2023

Divorce is never an easy time for either spouse, but if there are children involved, then issues of child support and custodial/visitation arrangements have to be made. If the parents can work together on an agreement and submit it to the court, this can save a lot of the tension and trauma of waiting on a judge’s ruling to determine who gets the children and who pays support and how much. 

The problem is that divorcing parents may not be able to reach an agreement on their own. Whether they’re simply unsure of how to make things even or if the emotions are still heightened, it’s always important to involve an attorney to help the partners achieve an uncontested divorce agreement. It can help you to save the costs, emotional and financial, of contesting the dissolution in court. 

The Commonwealth of Kentucky, in computing child support, bases the calculation on each partner’s gross – not net – income, and on a variety of other factors, including how much time the child or children spend with each parent. Child support must continue until the child or children reach 18, or 19 if still in high school.  

But in an age when a high school education is not always sufficient to promise a financially stable future, you may hope for a college education for your child. Kentucky law does not mandate that child support continue into the college/university years, but parents can voluntarily agree on a formula to help their children through the higher education process. This is another reason why the help of an experienced family law attorney is vital – covering all the bases of your offspring’s future well-being. 

If you’re considering divorce or have already been served or entered into the process in or around Elizabethtown, Kentucky, contact the family law attorneys at Caleb Bland Law, PLLC. From our office in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, we will work with you compassionately to resolve the issues vital to both partners’ future and to the future of their children. We also proudly serve clients throughout Central Kentucky, including Hardin County, Nelson County, LaRue County, Jefferson County, Meade County, Grayson County, and the surrounding areas. 

Kentucky Child Support Laws 

Kentucky law sets forth child support guidelines. Child support is decided on the adjusted gross income. Gross income is more than just what you earn from a job; it also includes money from any of the following places: 

  • Salaries/wages  

  • Retirement and pension funds 

  • Commissions 

  • Bonuses 

  • Dividends 

  • Severance pay 

  • Pensions 

  • Interest 

  • Annuities 

  • Government benefits (such as social security, workers’ compensation, unemployment, disability, SSI, and more) 

  • Gifts and prizes 

There is a calculator for defining the child support amount, but it will officially be declared in court. If the combined income of both parents is $5,000 a month, then the support for one child would be $676 a month, rising to $1,661 for six or more children. The support obligation is then shared according to the percentage of income contributed by each parent.  

Using the up-to-date calculator, here is a possible example: a noncustodial parent earns $4,500 a month and the custodial parent earns $2,000 a month. The custodial parent faces monthly daycare costs of $1,200 and a health insurance payment of $200. Therefore, the noncustodial parent would be obligated to pay $1,429 a month in child support for a single child. 

Please note: the courts will assign an income if one of the parents is deliberately underworking or accepting unemployment as a means to avoid child support. 

Factoring in College Expenses 

Kentucky does not require that a divorce settlement take into account any post-secondary educational costs – that is, any education or training after high school. Parents will need to resolve it among themselves voluntarily. If the parents agree to help their child or children through the college years, many factors have to be considered. 

For instance, state universities are often less costly tuition-wise than private institutions. Likewise, the location of the school can play a big factor in terms of rent and cost of living. What about books and other costs? As tuitions and costs seem to be rising almost yearly, these calculations can be difficult. 

At some schools, you can pay tuition in advance and lock in the cost at current levels. This, of course, would assume that your child would even want to attend that university. If the kid is 10, you’d be gambling that he or she would be attracted to that place of higher learning later in their formative years. 

One way to help your offspring through the college years is to set up a fund in the child’s name, into which each parent contributes a set amount. The accumulated total may not be sufficient to cover all expenses associated with a higher education, but it can be a solid start. The parents could agree to continue providing support after the child enters college. 

Your arrangements can be written into your voluntary divorce agreement and thus be binding, but if you leave child support and other decisions to the court, support will stop at age 18 or 19 if still in high school. In your voluntary support agreement, there are many factors to be considered, especially when it comes to support after high school. Consulting and working with a knowledgeable family law attorney can help keep everything in focus. 

In summary, here are your options: 

  • Voluntarily pay tuition in advance for a specific college. 

  • Set up a fund in the child’s name. Both parents can voluntarily contribute. 

  • Write these options into a divorce agreement for it to be binding.  

Speak with Experienced Legal Counsel 

At Caleb Bland Law, PLLC, we have decades of experience in working with parents on resolving all issues involved in the dissolution of their marriage. We can work with you to establish a means to help your children pursue their education after high school. Reach out immediately if you’re considering or already entering into a divorce anywhere in Central Kentucky.