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Custody & Support Modifications

In California Family Court, College Is Not Automatic

As is the case with other states, California requires parents to support their children until the children are legal adults. Specifically, parents have an obligation to pay child support until the child turns 18. If the child remains in high school, then parents must support him until he graduates, drops out or turns 19.

What is noticeably absent from California's child support requirements is any provision that says that a parent must cover the child's college expenses. In other words, each parent may choose to help their child through college, but this is strictly at the option of that parent. Courts ordinarily will not intervene.

Nevertheless, many couples see the value of sending their child to college and will want to make sure they get a good opportunity to pursue higher learning. There are ways parents can accomplish this even in the face of a divorce or separation.

For instance, as this blog has discussed before, sometimes parents can come to an agreement through mediation or some other negotiation which will require them both to help pay for their son's college education. Courts generally will enforce these sorts of agreements.

On a related point, sometimes the best course of action will be for parents to consider setting up and contributing to a trust fund or to some other savings plan like a special tax-exempt account called a 529 plan.

Other savings options may be available, and these can be valuable from a family law perspective. For instance, especially when parents have a tense relationship either with each other or their child, contributing to a well-regulated and defined account can give all parties the assurance they need that their money will be invested in a quality college education.