Paying for College When Divorced in New York

A lot of our clients ask us about how divorcing parents are supposed to pay for a college education. The answer depends on a number of factors. How old are your children right now? If your children are babies or in elementary school, you’ll probably re-visit the subject when they’re in high school, but if they are in high school now, that’s different.

Did you and your spouse plan to send your children to college? Or, did you both discuss having your children pay for their own college education? “Am I required by New York law to pay for my child’s college?” is a question we hear frequently.

The answer is, “No, the state views college as a luxury, so you are not legally-required to pay for your child’s college,” you are however, required to financially support your child until they turn 21, even if they move out of the custodial parent’s home and live on campus.

When College is in the Plans

Let’s assume college is very important to you and your spouse. You both have college degrees and, in your family, college is expected and your child is excited to go. He or she is now in high school and they have been preparing to go to college. What do you do?

New York has what is called a SUNY Cap. Meaning, in the majority of middle class families, parents should not be required to contribute more to their child’s college education than what it costs to send a child to a SUNY school.

As of this writing, the average cost of a SUNY college or university is $20,000 per year and that includes room, tuition, board, and fees. Often, that $20,000 is shared equally by each parent. Or, if one parent earns significantly more than the other, the amount may be relative to their respective incomes (this is called pro rata). Other times, parents feel it’s important to have their child help contribute to some of those costs, whether it’s through student loans, or working through college and paying part of their tuition.

Next: Common Mistakes in a High-Asset Divorce

There is a lot for parents to consider and we are basically scratching the surface, but this information should paint a better picture for you. If you are interested in learning more about paying for college expenses after a divorce, we invite you to contact our Orange County divorce firm.

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