Deciding Future Payment of Children’s College Expenses at Time of Divorce

Family Law Blog

Deciding Future Payment of Children’s College Expenses at Time of Divorce

December 5, 2019 | Divorce

Deciding Future Payment of Children’s College Expenses at Time of Divorce

Often times the last thing a divorcing couple with a young child wants to think about is who is going to pay for their child’s college 10-15 years down the road. To them, the issues that are happening now  Where am I going to live? How much money am I going to have? How much parenting time will I have with my child? – take priority. Also, it may not be wise to agree to pay a certain amount of college expenses many years in the future because financial circumstances can always change.

Therefore, divorcing couples often “reserve” the issue of college expenses for a later time. If college expenses are reserved then one spouse must file a petition in court to get the other spouse to contribute to these expenses.  This is usually done when the college expenses become known. 

The  wording of the Martial Settlement Agreement is critical because, under certain circumstances, the court cannot order an ex-spouse to pay college expenses that were incurred prior to the filing of the petition. In other words, payment of college expenses may not be retroactive.  So, under certain circumstances, if a petition for college expenses is filed during the child’s sophomore year then the ex-spouse would only be required to contribute to college expenses for sophomore year and thereafter.  Therefore, it is extremely important for the Marital Settlement Agreement to clearly state the intentions of the parties with respect to payment of college expenses.

If the Martial Settlement Agreement states that both parents will contribute to the expenses but the amount of the contribution is reserved then the timing of the petition for contribution is not an issue. If the Martial Settlement Agreement simply states that the entire issue is reserved then the timing of the petition is critical.  Although divorcing  parents may not want to commit to paying college expenses in the future, they should consider the distant consequences of that decision. 

The Botti Law Firm, P.C. has been serving DuPage and Cook County residents for nearly 50 years. We have vast experience handling cases involving divorce. If you would like to speak to one of our experienced attorneys, please email us or call (630) 573-8585 to schedule a free consultation. 


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