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How Do You Divide the College Expenses for Your Kids in A Divorce?

D'Angelo & Grabow, LLP March 17, 2020

Just as in other states, parents in Wisconsin have a legal obligation to support their children until they become adults. Unlike some other states, however, Wisconsin terminates that parent’s obligation when the child turns 18 years of age (or 19, but only if the child’s still in high school or pursuing a high school equivalency degree.)

Where does that leave your child’s college aspirations? Child support that extends beyond a teen’s 18th birthday may not be part of the usual child support agreement, but it is something that you can negotiate privately.

Could a Private Support Agreement Protect Your Child’s Future?

When the court has to make the rules, it will generally follow an accepted “standard” child support agreement — but those can be quite limiting and leave both parents feeling like the agreement doesn’t really support their goals for their children. That’s why it’s often wiser to spend the time negotiating a better, clearer agreement with your spouse while you can.

What Should You Consider when Thinking Ahead to Your Child’s College Years?

As long as you and your spouse are on the same page regarding your child’s education, you can negotiate your own agreement. Consider discussing:

  • Whether you’re willing to support your child’s Ivy League aspirations or are only willing to pay the tuition toward a state school

  • Whether you’re willing to pay toward expenses that aren’t included in the tuition, including rent and utilities for a student apartment, books, art supplies and other needs

  • Whether you will provide your college student with a car, car insurance or other extras that are useful (but maybe not essential to their education)

  • What would relieve you of any obligation to pay those expenses (failing grades, leaving school, getting married, etc.)

It’s smart to think ahead about all of the possible expenses that can come up and have a very clear agreement about what you do — and do not — expect to pay. An experienced attorney can help you craft a workable child support agreement.