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College Expenses

In Florida, parents are not required to pay for a child’s college expenses.

In Florida, parents are not required to pay for a child’s college expenses. This means that no case law or judge can order you to pay for college expenses. Generally, in Florida, child support ends at age 18 and parents will not be responsible for any expense, education or otherwise, past this age. Fla. Stat. § 61.30.

Although parents are not required by law to pay for a child’s college expenses, parents are still free to contract with each other to provide for college and graduate school expenses in a settlement agreement. Such agreements are legally binding and enforceable by the general principles of contract law. For a settlement agreement that contains terms about the child’s tuition, books, school supplies, computers, etc. to be enforceable, it must contain specific details about how long the obligation will continue and at what rate. However, parties are still allowed to agree to an open-ended commitment to pay for college expenses if the agreement specifically states that the commitment is open ended. Jaffe v. Jaffe, 17 So.3d 1251 (Fla. 5th DCA 2009).

Even though these agreements are enforceable through contract law, the duty to pay for a child’s college expenses cannot be enforced by a contempt action. Nicoletti v. Nicoletti, 901 So.2d 290 (Fla. 2d DCA 2005). Instead,  the remedy available after the child reaches 18 is a judgment enforceable by ordinary civil proceedings. Southard v. Southard, 756 So.2d 251 (Fla. 5th DCA 2000). Furthermore, as a settlement agreement to pay college expenses is enforceable through contract law, a parent cannot be obligated to pay college expenses because of moral obligations. “Even though most financially able parents willingly assist their adult children in obtaining higher education, any duty to do so is moral rather than legal duty, absent either finding of legal dependence or binding contractual agreement by parent to pay such support.” Madson v. Madson, 636 So.2d 759 (Fla. 2d DCA 1994). Crafting an enforceable agreement to pay college expenses can be somewhat complex. If you have questions about college expenses and child support, it would be wise to contact an expereinced Orlando or Tampa divorce lawyer. 

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