Child Support

As a divorced father, am I legally obligated to a child support while he is attending college?

Pursuant to Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1910.19 a parent may seek termination of their child support obligation based on their child reaching the age of eighteen (18) or graduating from high school. Pennsylvania does not require that child support obligations continue when the child has reached the age of eighteen (18) and is attending a college or a university. Furthermore, the Pennsylvania Appellate Courts have recognized this, in Mackay v. Mackay, the Pennsylvania Superior Court stated, “Pennsylvania Law does not impose an obligation on parents to provide for their children’s college expenses.” See also the Pennsylvania Supreme Court case of Blue vs. Blue, 532 Pa. 249 (1992).

However, this is a general rule and it can be modified by agreement of the parties. The Court in Mackay recognized this, and stated, “A parent may assume financial responsibilities for a child’s secondary education.” Often times, as part of a divorce, parties will enter into a Property Settlement Agreement or Marital Settlement Agreement which settles the financial implications of the parties divorce. These agreements can include whether divorced parents will be legally bound to contribute to their children’s college education and expenses.

Typically Property Settlement Agreements are written and can even be incorporated into the divorce decree entered by the Court. The terms are enforceable and if a party who agrees to pay for his or her children’s college education fails to do so, the Court can issue an Order requiring the enforcement of the agreement between the parties and requiring the breaching party to contribute to their child’s college expenses.

However, if parties merely discuss a parent contributing to a child’s college expenses following their divorce, a parent’s obligation to pay for college only becomes enforceable if the parties enter into an agreement. In MacKay, the mother claimed that her and father made an oral agreement where the father agreed to pay for the child’s college expenses. The Court recognized that Pennsylvania allows the Court to enforce oral agreements, but the Pennsylvania Courts had not previously ordered the enforcement of an oral agreement to pay college expenses. The Court in Mackay found that while the couple discussed pooling their resources together to help pay for their child’s college expenses the couple did not have a legally enforceable agreement and, therefore, as the father was not required to pay for his child’s college expenses.

Filed Under: Family Law

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