Can a Spouse Be Required to Pay a Child’s College Expenses in Ohio?

With a college degree becoming increasingly necessary, and tuition being very expensive, parents have to decide how to assist their children in attending college. However, when the parents decide to divorce, the question becomes whether they should make a provision for their children’s college education and expenses? When the parties do not agree, this often leaves them wondering whether the court can require that the parties, or one spouse, pay the college expenses of their children.

Domestic relations courts in Ohio do not have the ability to order the parents to pay for their children’s college tuition and expenses. The obligation to support one’s child normally extends to, but not beyond, the child reaching the age of majority, which is defined as 18 years of age or until the child has graduated from an accredited high school, whichever occurs later. As a result, no court can require, as part of the court’s order granting a divorce, that either party pay for a child’s college expenses.

Although the court cannot order payment of college expenses on its own, the parties can agree that one or both will be responsible for a child’s college expenses. If the parties decide to put this in their final divorce settlement, the provision then becomes an order that is enforceable by court.

Before agreeing to include such a provision in a court order, it is important to thoroughly think through all potential implications that could result. For example, this contractual obligation may not become operative for a number of years, and the parties’ future financial responsibilities and resources likely will not be known at the time of negotiation.

When going through a divorce you will be confronted with a multitude of decisions that can have important familial and financial ramifications. It is highly advisable that you consult with a divorce attorney prior to entering into any legally binding agreements to ensure that your rights are protected and that you are well advised.