For some parents, getting their children from the first day of preschool to high school graduation is the final goal of parenting. However, for those who have children that want to become doctors, engineers, architects or accountants, high school is only one step on the path to their adult professions.
They will need to attend college, which could cost tens of thousands of dollars each year, depending on the school that they attend and what kind of financial aid they receive. Parents often spend the better part of their children’s school years saving for college because of how expensive it usually is.
Can divorced or separated parents in Tennessee count on child support during the college years to cover a dependent child’s expenses?
Tennessee does not force parents to pay for college
Unfortunately for the college-bound children of parents that separate, Tennessee state law does not impose long-term child support obligations on the parents. In a scenario where child support comes from a custody order issued by the Tennessee family courts, it will typically end when a child turns 18 or finishes high school.
The courts will usually not issue an involuntary child support order that persists through college. However, the courts can approve a settlement agreement that includes provisions for sharing college expenses. Parents who know that their children will attend college or expect to pursue higher education because of their intended profession can set their own terms for covering college costs as part of their divorce settlement negotiations.
They can agree to a support-like arrangement or possibly agree to each provide a specific amount of money or pay a specific percentage of the college costs. When parents understand that a contentious approach to divorce might actually harm their child’s financial future by putting them at a disadvantage in covering college expenses, they may find it easier to collaborate with their spouse and work toward a settlement that benefits the whole family.
College costs aren’t always an issue for families, but they can be a pressing concern in some cases. Children who have been raised in a household that enjoys a higher standard of living are more likely to expect to attend college. Learning more about the unique rules that apply to child support matters in Tennessee will help those who are preparing for the unique challenges of a high-asset divorce.