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Posts Tagged ‘College’

College Support for Children Following Divorce

College support from the non-custodial parent has been a hot topic this year in the legal field.  Post minority support is another way to say that the non-custodial parent needs to pay for some of the cost of tuitition, room, board, books, etc that a child attending college would experience.   Many will say that it has always puzzled them that parents who stay married cannot be forced to pay for college expenses while non-married, divorced couples can be forced to do so under our current laws in Alabama.  Ex Parte Bayliss governs when college support petitions must be filed and how a parent can be ordered to pay their share of the expenses.  Basically, any petitions to modify for college support must be filed prior to the child reaching the age of 19 or it is forever barred.  Of course, some couples reserve the issue of college expenses in their divorce decree.  If this is done, there needs to be a deadline of an age that a petition must be filed for each child.  However, this is often overlooked and a simple reservation for the expense is incorporated into the decree.

There is new case Christopher v. Christopher, 2012 Ala. Civ. App. Lexis 357 that was decided by the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals on December 21, 2012.  It, of course, has not been presented to every higher court as of yet but is expected that it might well be done.  This case raises the issue that it may be unconstitutional to require non-custodial parents to be forced to participate in paying for college expenses.  This case says, in part, that Ex Parte Bayliss, which has been around since 1989, may discriminate against children of non-divorced parents as a class.  Discrimination across a “class of people” is unconstitutional.  Therefore, whether the non-custodial parent may be forced to pay college expenses may be short-lived should this case reach our Supreme Court and overturn Ex Parte Bayliss.  In short, there were several concurring opinions written by the justices who decided Christopher v. Christopher and one in which it urged the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision in Ex Parte Bayliss.  Due to the other arguments presented in the Christopher case and the unconstitutional argument, it looks like the “tide” is changing very quickly.

For some parents, this is good news if they do not have the means to support a child through college and the expense of hiring an attorney to prove that they have an inability to pay can be rather costly as well.   For other parents, this may be bad news in that they have an ex-spouse who has the means and financial condition to support the child through college but will no longer be forced to do so. 

This author believes this case comes on the heels of the economic climate in that it is becoming ever persistent that a college degree may not add to one’s income potential the way that it used to do so.  The high cost of  a college degree has recently been balanced by the ability of a non-degree holder’s income potential versus the cost of paying back student loans.  This is especially true in the legal field with the saturation of lawyers being so high and the lack of hiring by law firms due to the economic climate.  Law students are faced with student loans in excess of $150,000 to $200,000 with no prospect of employment.  I am sure the same can be said for other professional markets as well.  Employers are getting more productivity out of the employees they currently have and not hiring others to replace positions that used to be commonplace.  It is definitely an employer’s market.  Every out-of-work college graduate is learning new and innovative ways to look attractive or get technicial skills that will enable them to work even if it means not using the college degree they earned. 

It seems that only those parents who can both agree on what portion of college expenses each will pay at the outset of a divorce will be the ones who will send their children to college on their “dime.”  Of course, there is always the ability of each student to get grants, scholarships, internships, and student loans. 

Keeping an eye on family law trends is one of my favorite past times.  I enjoy being able to advise my clients on the most up-to-date laws that affect their unique situations.  Call me if you need divorce or post divorce help (205) 623-1001.  We are here to answer your questions.

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