Which Parent Is Responsible for College Tuition if My Spouse and I Are Divorced?


When it comes to paying college tuition, students and their parents may fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine the actual cost of tuition. Either parent can fill out this form, but the custodial parent typically fills out this form.

Because parents are only responsible for their children until age 18, however, neither parent is legally responsible for college tuition. Both parents can choose to contribute to their child’s education if they can and want to, but there are no federal laws requiring parents to pay for college.

Nevertheless, you can address the issue of college tuition during your divorce. If you and your spouse include tuition responsibilities in your final divorce decree, the court can enforce them.

The Importance of Planning Ahead

No matter your situation, you should plan ahead for your child’s educational expenses. If one parent is unable or unwilling to contribute, the custodial parent should be aware of this at the time of the divorce.

Otherwise, parents can agree ahead of time on how college costs will be handled. Many parents open special savings accounts for each of their children and/or estimate each parent’s financial contribution.

Some parents agree to pay alternate semesters, others agree to fund their child’s college savings account to a certain amount, and some find other solutions entirely.

For example, a spouse can “trade” property or financial support from the other spouse for agreed-upon contributions to their child’s college funds.

Will A 50-50 Custody Schedule Effect Financial Aide?

When filling out the FAFSA, having a 50/50 custody and support arrangement can reduce your child’s eligibility for financial aid. In these situations, the smartest option is to have the child live with the lowest-earning parent for more than 50% of the time the year before filling out the FAFSA, so this parent becomes the custodial parent and fills out the form. Fortunately, parents who are unmarried and do not live together are not responsible for filling out the FAFSA together.

Finding the Right Solution

Whether you are worried your ex will not contribute to your child’s education, you want to maximize your child’s financial aid eligibility, or you just want to clarify expectations about college expenses, Morales Law, P.C. can help. Our client-centered and results-oriented attorneys will help you create a legal solution that works for your family.

We are experienced and respected and more than ready to handle your divorce or child custody case. Rest assured, we will consider college tuition and all the other factors that are most important to your family.

Ready to get started? Call us at (805) 422-7966 or contact us online today.