Divorce is an alternative to the adversarial divorce process
where professionals and the spouses or partners commit in writing to work
together to help the couple reach a divorce settlement out of
court which addresses the needs and interests of the couple and
By Kate W. Haakonsen
When can the court order
Unless the parties file a written agreement to pay
support for college education expenses, known as
educational support, the court can make an order of
educational support only if requested by one of the
parties by motion or petition. This can be done when the
case is filed or any time before a judgment is entered.
At the time that a judgment of divorce or legal
separation is entered, the court must enter an order or
reserve jurisdiction to make an order at a later date.
Otherwise, the right to request an educational support
order must be waived by both parties on the court
record. In cases between unmarried parents, parents may
seek an order anytime before a child reaches the age of
23. Before an educational support order can be entered,
the judge must find that the parents would have
contributed to the post high school education of the
child if the family had been intact. There are not
enough published court decisions yet to indicate what
evidence a court will consider to prove that the parents
would have provided such support. This remains an area
of uncertainty best addressed by an agreement between
What payments can the court order?
The court may order payment of necessary expenses
listed in the statute including room, board, dues,
tuition, fees, registration and application costs for
four years of undergraduate or vocational school for
children under the age of 23. But the court may not
order parents to contribute more than the cost for a
fulltime student attending the University of Connecticut
for the same year.
Orders are based a number of financial considerations
which are spelled out in the statute: (1) The parents'
income, assets and other obligations, including
obligations to other dependents; (2) the child's need
for support to attend an institution of higher education
or private occupational school considering the child's
assets and the child's ability to earn income; (3) the
availability of financial aid from other sources,
including grants and loans; (4) the reasonableness of
the higher education to be funded considering the
child's academic record and the financial resources
available; (5) the child's preparation for, aptitude for
and commitment to higher education; and (6) evidence, if
any, of the institution of higher education or private
occupational school the child would attend.
There are also specific requirements that the child
must meet in order to receive the support. The child has
no right to request or enforce the support order; only
the parent can do so.
To whom may payments for educational support be made?
The court may order payments to be made to one of the
parties or directly to the school or as if sees fit.
What if we agree to do more?
The statute described above applies to cases where
the parents do not have an agreement and have requested
an educational support order be entered by the court
after a trial of the issue. Of course, parents may, and
often do, enter into written agreements for the payment
of college education or other post majority support in
any amount they choose, and their agreement can set
forth the specific terms and conditions they agree upon
including payments which exceed the costs for the
University of Connecticut. Written educational support
or post majority support orders are subject to
modification in the event of a substantial change in
circumstances in the same way that child support orders
for minor children can be modified upon the motion of
either party, but only in cases where judgment was
entered on or after October 1, 2001. Agreements entered
before October 1, 2001 can be modified only by agreement
of the parties.
Can I ask for an educational support order or other
post 18 support if I am already divorced?
The availability of child support beyond a child's
18th birthday is a matter of timing, in this case the
date the parents were divorced. Before the age of
majority was reduced from 21 to 18 in 1972, child
support was available to age 21, which covered all or
most of the college years for many children of divorce.
Although the legislature was not intentionally reducing
parents' support obligation when it lowered the age of
majority, the court soon ruled that it had done just
that. Several laws have been passed since 1990 that have
extended parents' support obligations beyond the age of
18. However, for Constitutional reasons, each of these
laws applies only to divorce judgments that are entered
on or after the effective date of each law.
where judgment entered on or after July 1, 1994, parents
may be ordered to provide support for an unmarried child
attending high school up to the age of 19 or high school
graduation, whichever occurs first.
Parents may be ordered to support a child who is
mentally retarded or physically disabled, as defined by
statute, up until the child reaches age 21, but only if
the parents were divorced on or after October 1, 1997.
Effective October 1, 2002, in cases of divorce or
legal separation or new support orders entered between
parents who were never married, the court may order
parents to contribute to the post high school education
expenses of their children up to the age of 23. Prior to
October 1, 2002, such orders could be entered only by
written agreement of the parties.