I want to talk to you about an issue that’s come up a lot, and that is that sometimes parties, parents, go through a divorce when the children are young, and then years later the issue of college or vocational school expenses comes up and parents want to know, well, this is going to be a huge expense and how do I get my former spouse to be financially responsible for college or vocational expenses? Typically, college expenses are called post-secondary education expenses, the typical four year college degree. Vocational kinds of expenses would be a trade school or an art school where children know that they’re going to be going through a program so that when they finish that program they’ll be well on their way to a career.
The law in Colorado, which was addressed in a Colorado Supreme Court case called Shallott, says that when parents go through a divorce and they have children, it is up to the parents to address how post-secondary college expenses are going to be paid. As an example, if you go through a divorce and you have small children … Let’s just say the children are eight and 10 years old. It’s up to the parents to discuss if they want to include college expenses as part of their divorce or legal separation case. The law says that at that time, when parents are going through their divorce, that is the time when they must reach an agreement as to how that expense is going to be paid.
As an example, if parents do not discuss in any way in their settlement college expenses, the courts in Colorado will not enter any orders requiring parents to pay for a college expense. We all know that college expenses have been on the rise in recent years. It’s very expensive, and what that means to parents is that if you do not have an agreement at the time that you finish your divorce case, then the total cost for college or post-secondary education, vocational expenses, things like that, is going to be on the parent who wants to pay. If neither parent wants to pay, it’s going to up up to the child. You can’t go back to court and ask the judge to order a parent to pay college expenses if it was never addressed.
This is another example of how important it is to have a knowledgeable family law attorney: someone that specializes in family law who would know what the law says, who can guide you through the process when the children are small to plan for that day when they are going to go to college.
Contact Shayne Law if you have any questions.