Handling college tuition and financial aid after a Connecticut divorce

Connecticut courts can order divorcing parents to pay for a child’s college expenses with an Educational Support Order.

When you are going through a divorce involving children, it may be difficult to think about long-term plans. Children grow up faster than you expect, and before you know it they will be considering college or some other post-secondary training. Planning for college tuition should be part of the divorce process, and Connecticut law allows courts to order parents to help pay for their children's education expenses.

Educational support orders

While child support orders usually end when children turn 18 years old or are emancipated, Connecticut courts may order divorcing parents and fathers subject to paternity orders to continue to support their children until their children are 23 years old if their children are enrolled in a college or vocational training program. The order may include expenses for tuition, room, board, books, fees, application costs and medical and dental care. The order may state that one parent pays the money to the other parent or directly to the school itself.

The court considers several factors when determining educational support orders, including:

  • Each parent's income, assets and other obligations
  • The needs of the child for support to attend school, including the child's own earning capacity
  • The possibility of financial aid from other sources such as grants and loans
  • How reasonable it is to fund higher education, given the child's academic record and the family's finances
  • Whether the parents would have funded the child's education if the family were still intact
  • The child's commitment to higher education
  • Evidence about the school the child will attend

Financial aid after divorce

Given the skyrocketing cost of college, many parents and students need to apply for financial aid to help cover the costs of education. When parents are divorced, the financial aid process can be a little more complex. In order for a child to qualify for federal student financial aid, parents need to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. The custodial parent should be the one to complete the form. The FAFSA asks for detailed financial information to determine your child's eligibility for aid. If a custodial parent has remarried, the new spouse's income will be included in that calculation. The ex-spouse's income will not be included. It makes a difference which parent fills out the FAFSA, because it could impact how much financial aid a student qualifies for.

Many private universities require students to complete the College Scholarship Service Profile to determine eligibility for non-federal financial aid. The Profile requires information from both the custodial and non-custodial parent, unlike the FAFSA. Some of the schools that use the Profile also consider new spouses' incomes, as well as other factors such as how long a student's parents have been divorced when determining a student's eligibility for aid.

Speak with an attorney

Planning for college and applying for financial aid is complicated, and divorce can make it even more difficult. If you are considering divorce, it is important to include college planning in the divorce process to prevent issues from arising in the future. If you have questions about divorce and college planning, talk to an experienced Connecticut divorce attorney who can address your concerns based on your specific circumstances.

Keywords: divorce; child support; property division