College Expenses and Child Support

Milwaukee Lawyers Providing Advice on Complex Family Law Matters

In today’s economy, going to college is a foregone conclusion for many children and their parents. Whether it is a technical school, a community college, or a liberal arts education, most high school graduates find that they need some form of training or education before entering the work force. As a result, college expenses have become an important cost consideration in support proceedings. Parents must resolve whether and how college expenses will be covered. At Reddin & Singer, LLP, our Milwaukee child support attorneys can help you evaluate your options for covering college expenses under Wisconsin law, and we can advise you on how to craft a viable solution.

Child Support Payments Are Not Required to Cover College

Under Wisconsin law, parents are not obligated to pay for their children’s education as a part of their child support duties. Once a child turns 18 and graduates from high school, Wisconsin views that child as an adult who can take care of their own expenses. As an emancipated adult, the child is not entitled to have college expenses paid by divorcing parents. One parent cannot force the other parent to contribute to a college education. This may be a relief for parents who are concerned about their ability to cover future college costs.

Negotiating College Payments

While the law does not require parents to pay for their child’s college as a component of child support, many parents view college as a fundamental educational opportunity that they should provide for their child. In order to avoid future disputes about how to pay for college, Wisconsin does allow parents to privately negotiate the payment of college expenses in a specific agreement. Parents may agree to contribute a certain amount to college expenses, take on a certain percentage of the total costs, or reach an agreement at a future time as to how college expenses will be covered.

Negotiating a settlement agreement that will cover college costs can be very tricky. Particularly if the divorce occurs when children are young, the parents may not know exactly how much college will cost once the time rolls around, or what their financial position will be at that time. In order to avoid financial difficulties down the road, or future litigation or modifications over a failure to provide college funds that were previously agreed to be provided, parents should very carefully consider and draft any such agreements. Seeking the advice of a Milwaukee attorney with experience in child support negotiations and college arrangements can be very helpful.

Handling Existing 529 Plans

In addition to considering future college contributions, parents who are divorcing must also grapple with existing college funds that may be tied up in a 529 plan. 529 plans are typically kept in the name of one parent, and the funds can be drawn out prior to a child actually leaving for college (with tax consequences), so 529 plans should be considered as divisible property in a divorce. They may be factored into a negotiation over how college expenses will be paid, or they may be treated as part of the couple’s assets that must be divided, but they are a source of funds that should not be overlooked.

Contact a Knowledgeable Milwaukee Attorney to Discuss Handling College Expenses

If you have children and anticipate that they will attend college in the future, college expenses are something to consider in any divorce process. While you have no legal requirement to support your children, including paying for college, after they turn 18, many parents plan on doing so. If you are uncertain about how to handle this responsibility, the child support lawyers at Reddin & Singer, LLP can walk you through your options under Wisconsin law while making sure that your assets are protected. We represent people who need an attorney in Milwaukee, Port Washington, Racine, West Bend, Waukesha, and other areas of Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Washington, and Waukesha Counties. Contact us online or at (414) 271-6400 to set up an appointment.