When divorcing parents negotiate child support agreements, their primary focus is often how much money is needed to care for kids while they're still living at home (generally until they graduate from high school or turn 18).
In most states, including Florida, the law doesn't require parents to financially support children after they turn 18. However, parents often take the opportunity while they're drawing up their child support agreement to designate how college expenses will be covered.
What does the law say?
In Florida, once children reach the "age of maturity," parents are no longer legally obligated to provide child support. That said, the court will honor support agreements that parents previously negotiated with regard to college funding or other financial support for young adults.
It may also compel support from one or both parents if a child is still deemed "dependent" after turning 18 (as in the case of kids with special needs). Attending college doesn't make a child dependent under the law, however.
Paying for college as a single parent
Of course, there's no way of knowing when your children are young what college will cost when they graduate from high school. Who knows if their child will develop a talent or aptitude that they want to explore at a particular school? The difference in cost between private and public institutions (particularly in-state ones) can be significant. There may be no way of knowing whether your children will be able to get a scholarship based on athletic ability or other skills or whether they can qualify for financial aid.
If you included college expenses in your support agreement, you may now need help modifying or enforcing it. In such situations, the court will look at factors such as:
- Both parents' financial resources
- Children's academic performance
- Available scholarships, financial aid and student loans
- What typical college and living expenses are
A Florida family law attorney can advise you on what you can and should include now to help ensure that your children will get the best college education you can afford based on their aptitudes and goals.