Who Pays College Tuition: Considerations in Divorce

Kansas uses private contractors to monitor and enforce the collection of child support payments, and federal data show that the state ranks 44th in the percentage of child support payments collected since 2008. Federal data for 2020 point to a 58 percent collection rate for child support payments in Kansas, increasing four percent from 2014.

The state legislature is currently grappling with improvements to the system that was established by then-Governor Sam Brownback back in 2013, which entrusted child support enforcement and collections to four private contractors, soon reduced to just two – the system currently in place.

Regardless of the system or its efficiency in collecting payments, child support is an essential legal obligation in Kansas imposed on non-custodial parents, whether the issue arises from a married or unmarried relationship.

Many non-custodial parents (parents who do not have physical custody of their child/children) are obligated to provide child support and question when the payments end.

The answer in Kansas law is that child support ends when the child reaches the age of majority – adulthood – which usually means the age of 18. Beyond that, unless the parents have agreed on a college support program, child support ends.

If you’re in the process of divorcing or are already paying child support, and you have questions or concerns about supporting the children as they matriculate into college, contact Roth Davies LLC. 

The family law attorneys at Roth Davies LLC proudly serve clients in Overland Park, Kansas, and throughout Johnson County. They can help assess your situation and advise you of your options in all matters concerning child support.

Is Paying for College an Obligation for Divorced Parents?

The Kansas Department for Children and Families (which oversees the contractors mentioned above) is clear on when child support ends:

“For Kansas orders, current support lasts until the child is emancipated (reaches adulthood). For most children, that is their 18th birthday. If a child turns eighteen while still attending high school, the child’s current support order automatically continues until the end of that school year. In very rare cases, the court may order support to continue until the child turns nineteen if the child is still in high school.”

Some 24 states, along with the District of Columbia, have laws or case law on record that allow courts to require a non-custodial parent to pay for some form of college support, but Kansas is not among them. However, even in those states, the objection by non-custodial parents looms large that the law does not require still-married parents to pay for college, so why should they?

The relevant Kansas statute, KSA 23-3001(b), states: “The obligation to pay child support may be extended beyond the child’s majority by agreement between the parties, but it cannot be imposed by the Court past majority.”

Thus, if the parents in a custodial relationship in Kansas have voluntarily agreed to a college support plan, the courts will generally enforce that provision.

Options to Consider if Agreeing to College Support

If you are a divorced or never-married parent with a custodial child and decide to help with college expenses, the first consideration is how those expenses are to be determined. Will the child attend a state institution where tuition is generally lower than a private university where tuition can be much higher? Will you cover just tuition or room and board and other living expenses? How about books and other classroom tools? Pay for them?

Another consideration is how much do you trust the child. If you give them a lump sum, will they spend it all in a month or two and then be broke? If you are worried, you can always set up an educational trust administered by a trustee, who will award funds only upon proof of actual expenses – receipts, etc.

Since you are no longer married or never were, you cannot jointly set up a 529 plan, but if one parent does, then the 529 locks in the tuition rate at the time your child is old enough to matriculate.

Remember, however, that once you agree to a college plan in writing, it becomes a legal obligation in conjunction with other child support arrangements.

Roth Davies LLC Provides Experience You Can Trust

It is best if a divorcing couple can decide child support, parenting time, and other issues on their own and submit a settlement plan to the court for approval. If you don’t, the court will use its formula to determine child support, which may or may not take into consideration all factors of your future – and your child’s future – after divorce. 

Of course, on the flip side, the court will likely disapprove any one-sided agreement that shortchanges the custodial parent and child.

If you’re considering divorce or already in the process, or if your circumstances have changed and you wish to modify a child support arrangement, contact Roth Davies LLC. Let experienced and knowledgeable family law attorneys work with you to help reach a settlement or modification that is just and fair for both parties and the child (or children) involved. Roth Davies LLC proudly serves clients in Overland Park, Kansas, and throughout Johnson County.


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