A divorce can be a very challenging time, especially if you have one or more children. A divorce can very quickly lead to feelings of failure not just of the marriage between you and your spouse, but letting down the children. And, in a lot of marriages the parents have either stated their intentions to plan or pay for their childrens’ college education. When a divorce occurs, this can put the brakes on all kinds of financial plans.
Colorado law is very specific about whether parents are responsible for their children’s college education.
Colorado Law on How College Expenses are Handled
It’s definitely a tough time to make financial decisions, but any good parent knows they have to put the concerns of their children’s future first during a divorce. Colorado laws actually no longer help much in the planning process. But, there are some instances where it does, if there is enough earned income by the parents to help in the college planning process.
- In 1997, Colorado courts were stopped from requiring parents to pay for college. However, if the parents file a joint written agreement to pay for their child’s college education, then the courts will uphold it.
- A joint agreement can be made in either the Separation Agreement or a Parenting Plan.
- The Colorado legislature also passed law that exempts requiring parents to pay post-secondary education expenses out of “child support.”
- By law, in Colorado child support payments end when a child reaches the age of 19.
- If there is a child support obligation created prior to July 1, 1997, then the parents may be liable for college expenses.
- Colorado law also explicitly states that the courts cannot order parents to pay for college expenses once the child reaches 21 years of age.
- Colorado courts recognize college expenses as including tuition, fees, and books. It does not recognize room and board.
When the Law Doesn’t Require College Assistance, How Can Parents Help Pay for College?
As we mentioned before, if the two parents are pro-active about helping finance their children’s college funds they can come to a mutual agreement in their Separation Agreement or a Parenting Plan recognized by the state courts.
- Parents should spell out their respective contributions and obligations in a legally binding document.
- The contributions should be realistic and manageable under a parent’s budget. There should also be language that accounts for any down time for a parent, whether it’s an income stop (like a lost job) or a medical difficulty.
- The parents can also come to an agreement on a total spending cap limit.
- If there is already a 529 plan/college saving account, parents can agree to continue to fund that account. The agreement can spell out that both parents have access to contribute to the 529 plan, while one parent acts as the manager of the account.
A divorce shouldn’t be a reason to stop financing your child’s college education. Yet, while a divorce can be a contentious matter, most parents usually find a common ground on meeting the needs of their children.
Contact a Denver Divorce Lawyer at Katherine Grier, P.C.
Has your significant other served you with divorce papers, or have you reached a point of no return in your marriage and can’t reconcile? Do you need a professional committed to helping you rebuild your life in the face of a life changing event, then contact the Denver Divorce Lawyer at Katherine Grier, P.C. Since 1999, Katherine has been practicing family law and helping those through the divorce process, including helping them plan for their financial future. Katherine can help in all divorce matters, including creating a Separation Agreement and/or a Parenting Plan. For caring, trustworthy representation call her at (303) 539-5435 or by sending us an email using the contact form on this page.