There has always been a lot of controversy about college contribution responsibilities for divorced or divorcing parents. As it is getting more and more expensive for students to attend college, parental financial contribution can end up being a crucial element in the divorce settlement and in a further modification after the settlement.
The courts have addressed the issue of college financial responsibilities in a variety of ways. There still seems to be a reasonable amount of flexibility in how the court addresses the issue. However, in the 2017 Mass. Child Support Guidelines there were some presumptions about what a cap might be at UMass Amherst. It states that neither parent would be ordered to pay more than 50% of an in-state undergraduate costs at UMass Amherst unless there is a written finding from the court to do something higher than the presumption. UMass Amherst cap includes fees, tuition, room and board. It is still unclear in court what would justify exceeding the 50% guidelines. There are still many circumstances in which the court decides that the child is responsible for a 1/3rd, wife is responsible for a 1/3rd and husband is responsible for a 1/3rd. There is still a lot of judicial discretion. Obviously, a lot of it depends on specific circumstances. So, it is important to give serious thought to college expenses prior to divorce and to modifications filed after the divorce to determine which school the child should attend and what portion each parent and the child should pay.
Child support with divorce modifications, the court might order increases in until the child is 18 (or up to 23 if a full-time student). The court also takes into consideration issues like whether a child is emancipated; where the child is living; and how the child is currently being supported.
The court sometimes will look at the parent’s net income after child support and use that figure to guide its decision. Again, every case is somewhat unique. Depending on what the parent’s individual and combined income is, it might be reasonable to assume that they would be required to contribute more than 50% even at a private college. However, if the parent’s income is very low, it might not be ordered to pay anything or a significantly lower amount.