The kids are headed back to college, and the expenses are adding up. If you’re a single parent, the cost of college can be daunting, especially if your child’s other parent isn’t as interested in footing the bill as you are. As far as Virginia law is concerned, your child became an adult on the day he or she turned eighteen or graduated high school. Period, end of story. At the point that your child became an adult, your child’s father’s child support obligation ended, because there is no statutory obligation to support a legal adult.
But the expense of raising a child doesn’t stop at eighteen. In fact, for most parents today, the bulk of the cost of raising a child who is well-equipped to tackle the “real world” doesn’t hit until eighteen, when they go off to college. Best case scenario, your child chooses a public, state-run institution, or receives some scholarship money for excelling in a particular area. Failing that, however, you may find that your child selects a private school in California.
On top of tuition, there are also additional expenses for room and board, activity and technology fees, travel, books, car insurance, health insurance, cell phone, and a whole lot more. Even the most fiscally responsible parent probably feels a little panic-stricken at the thought, especially since the law is pretty clear on this point: there is no child support obligation in Virginia for a child over the age of eighteen.
Can you get your husband to pay anyway? Maybe.
Most of the separation agreements that we draft include a provision that college expenses will be shared. The specifics change depending on the client, but we do often include something along these lines. Sometimes husbands sign with this included, and sometimes they insist that it’s taken out. If they insist that it’s taken out, there’s really nothing we can do, because the judge doesn’t have the authority to require that he share the costs with you.
Sometimes, even though he won’t sign an agreement specifically obligating himself to pay for college, he’ll help when the time comes because he loves his kid and wants the best thing for him (or her).
Other times, though, there’s really nothing we can do. If he won’t sign anything, and you don’t think he’ll help out of the sheer goodness of his heart and love for his children, there’s not a lot you (or your attorney) can do to convince him otherwise. Legally, there is no obligation to help support your children after they reach adulthood.
We all want to provide as much as we can for our children, but it’s also important to remember that you have a budget, too. As much as you’d like to pay for college completely, if your child’s other parent doesn’t share that goal with you, you will be limited to providing what you can afford on your own. Don’t bankrupt yourself. Talk with your child about student loans, scholarship programs at the school, and even search the web for different scholarship competitions your child can enter. You may be surprised at all the kinds of financial assistance out there. Failing that, of course, just do what you can to help. College kids love exam-time care packages and gas money. If that’s all you can do, that’s okay. Kids have survived on much, much less, and at the end of the day, he or she will know you gave everything in your power to help support their education.