By: Kate Haakonsen
In cases of divorce or legal separation or support orders entered after October 1, 2002 between parents who were never married, the court may order parents to contribute to the post high school education expenses of their children up to the age of 23. The court will make an order of educational support only if requested by one of the parties by motion or petition. At the time that a judgment of divorce or legal separation is entered the court must either enter an order or reserve jurisdiction to make an order at a later date. Otherwise, the right to request an educational support order is waived. Before an educational support order can be entered, the judge must find that the parents would have contributed to the educational expenses of the child if the family had been intact. The court may order payment of expenses listed in the statute for undergraduate or vocational school, but the court may not order parents to contribute more than the cost for a fulltime student attending the University of Connecticut for the same year. Orders are based a number of financial considerations that are spelled out in the statute. There are also specific requirements that the child must meet in order to receive the support. The child has no right to request or enforce the support order; only the parent can do so. The statute applies to cases where the parents do not have an agreement and have requested an educational support order be entered by the court after a trial of the issue. Of course, parents do not have to leave the decision up to the court. They may enter into written agreements for the payment of college education or other post majority support in any amount they choose, and their agreement can set forth the specific terms and conditions they agree upon. Written educational support or post majority support orders are subject to modification in the same way that child support orders for minor children can be modified, but only in cases where judgment was entered on or after October 1, 2001.
A Brief History of Post Majority Support
Before the age of majority was reduced from 21 to 18 in 1972, child support was available to age 21, which covered all or most of the college years for many children of divorce. Although the legislature was not intentionally reducing parents' support obligation when it lowered the age of majority, the court soon ruled that it had done just that. Several laws have been passed since 1990 which have extended parents' support obligations beyond the age of 18. However, for Constitutional reasons, each of these laws applies only to divorce judgments and support orders entered on or after the effective date of the law. In cases where judgment entered on or after July 1, 1994, parents may be ordered to provide support for an unmarried child attending high school up to the age of 19 or high school graduation, whichever occurs first. Parents may be ordered to support a child who is mentally retarded or physically disabled, as defined by statute, up until the child reaches age 21, but only if the parents were divorced on or after October 1, 1997. Prior to October 1, 2002, the could enter orders for orders requiring parents to contribute to the post high school education expenses of their children only by written agreement of the parties.