Child support is a significant part of a divorce resolution when you have minor children. An aspect that people can easily overlook is how to pay for college if you plan or expect your child to attend after graduating from high school. Researching your options and agreeing on a financing solution with your co-parent can make a positive difference once your child is ready to pursue undergraduate studies.
If your children are still young, you have the option not to address the topic for the time being. You and your former spouse can revisit the matter a few years after your divorce and file for a modification to your child support order. New York laws usually allow parents to modify child support every three years unless one parent’s income changes by at least 15 percent.
The state of New York does not require you to pay for your child’s education after high school and considers college a luxury. What matters is that the parent who makes child support payments does so for as long as legally necessary.
When Do You Stop Paying Child Support in New York?
New York laws require that child support payments last until the child turns 21 years old. If a child pursues emancipation, a judge can rule that a parent stop making child support payments earlier. Emancipation means that the child is self-supporting and lives on their own.
A minor can become emancipated if they:
- Enlist in the military
- Get married
- Complete four years of college
- Are at least 18 years old and work full-time to support themselves
Seasonal employment does not count towards emancipation. A judge can approve a minor’s emancipation if they cut ties with their parents due to negligence or abuse.
Agreeing on Supporting Your Child Through College
Parents can agree to continue child support payment until their child turns 22 if the child is a full-time student set to graduate from college. They can also negotiate what portion of college tuition and other expenses each can cover. You and your former spouse may also need to reach an agreement on how many years of college, what type of degree, or which institution you are willing to pay for.
While tuition often comes first to mind when thinking about funding a college education, it is important to consider all the additional costs such as living accommodation, food, transportation, and textbooks.
What Factors Do Courts Evaluate to Determine How Parents May Pay Tuition?
When evaluating your modification request about child support, a New York judge always prioritizes your child’s best interests, including when it comes to funding a college education.
Additional factors a court considers are:
- Each parent’s financial ability to support their child through college
- The parents’ educational background
- The child’s educational history and academic potential
A judge may also look at your request under the SUNY Cap framework if you and your former spouse use that to determine how to fund your child’s post-secondary education.
What Is the SUNY Cap?
The SUNY Cap has become a common method to determine each parent’s financial responsibility for paying for their child’s college after a divorce. Parents can choose to include a State University of New York (SUNY) cap in their divorce agreement. The estimated cost is based on tuition and associated costs of studying at a SUNY college or university, regardless of where the child goes to study after high school.
Although the SUNY Cap can simplify negotiations between parents, schools and programs in the SUNY system have varied tuition costs.
Given the complexity of the law governing child support and your options to fund college for your child as divorced parents, working with an experienced family law attorney can help you reach a settlement that protects your rights and assets and sets your child up for success to pursue post-secondary education.
If you need reputable legal advice to determine how to pay for your child’s college education after a divorce, contact Arnel Law Firm today at (718) 550-3024 to schedule a consultation.