When you had your child, you probably started planning ahead for their future needs almost immediately. That may have even included plans for college.

Now, however, you’re getting divorced. Child support is likely to become a big part of your expenses, and you are already wondering how you’ll manage — especially once college starts.

When does a parent’s child support obligation stop?

Every state is different. In Colorado, parents whose child support order began after July 1, 1997, cannot be required to provide support once a child turns 19 years of age — whether they pursue postsecondary education or not.

Is there any other way parents can be obligated to pay support for college students?

Parents can be asked to contribute to their child’s postsecondary tuition and room or board based on their income and the child’s dependency status as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process. That’s an entirely separate issue from support, however.

Parents are also free to make a private agreement that includes details about a child’s postsecondary education and support. For example, you and your spouse may agree to split common college expenses like:

  • Books
  • Transportation costs
  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Furnishings
  • Electronics
  • Material fees

Parents can make that kind of agreement as part of their divorce process. They can also put limits in place (like the requirement that they won’t pay more than what it costs to attend a state school as opposed to a private university).

Should you agree to pay for your child’s college expenses?

Every family situation is unique. When you’re going through a divorce, it’s smart not to make any agreements or promises until after you’ve spoken to your attorney. Child support can become a contentious issue very quickly, so make sure you understand your rights before you start negotiating.