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« Adoptions Create New Families | Main | Last Will & Testament Can Avoid Added Grief »
Tuesday
Jul062010

Absent Parents Not Compelled to Provide College Education

Summer is blazing down on us in all her sweaty, sticky, humid glory.  But before you know it, the “Back to MJ GoodwinSchool” sales will start.  All parents will be expected to shell out hard earned dollars for the necessities of paper and pencils, as well as the unnecessary status clothing and electronic devices.   Computers, calculators, all sorts of gadgets and even cars are touted as being “back to school” items.  For any parent, but most especially the single parent, this can be a daunting expense.  It’s bad enough in grade school and high school.  But what about college?
State schools are hiking tuition rates.  Room and board expenses are up.  And most folks’ incomes are down.  So what is a single parent to do when the tuition bill comes but the child support check has stopped?
For many years, attorneys in SC have faced a daunting task in attempting to advise clients on how to collect monies for college expenses from a non-custodial parent.  Finally, thirty-one (31) years after Risinger v. Risinger, our Supreme Court answered the question once and for all in a case called Webb v. Sowell.   The Court found that requiring a parent who is subject to a child support order to contribute to an emancipated child’s post-secondary education violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution.  The Equal Protection Clause provides that no person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws.
So what does that mean?  That’s a good question.  Consider this:  if you and your spouse have a child, you have no legal obligation to provide support of any kind to that child beyond that child’s emancipation.  So once your child is an adult, you are free from the legal monetary requirements.  The equal protection clause requires that we all be treated equally, that we are all the same in the eyes of the law.  So being divorced, and not having custody, cannot put a more onerous requirement on a parent with regard to post-emancipation support.   
The answer in such cases now is that absent some agreement, a parent cannot be ordered to pay for a child’s college education.  Why anyone would agree to such a Court order is beyond me.  It is important to note that a parent can still voluntarily contribute to a child’s college education without being ordered to do so.  No legal obligation is created by that act.  
The good news is that there are more grants and loans available for a young person’s college education than ever before.  That, plus hard work, is the only way a young person can assure him or herself of a college education.  Of course, as I often state, moral obligations and legal obligations are two different things.  It remains my personal opinion that we have a moral obligation to educate our children.

Summer is blazing down on us in all her sweaty, sticky, humid glory.  But before you know it, the “Back to School” sales will start.  All parents will be expected to shell out hard earned dollars for the necessities of paper and pencils, as well as the unnecessary status clothing and electronic devices.   Computers, calculators, all sorts of gadgets and even cars are touted as being “back to school” items.  For any parent, but most especially the single parent, this can be a daunting expense.  It’s bad enough in grade school and high school.  But what about college?
State schools are hiking tuition rates.  Room and board expenses are up.  And most folks’ incomes are down.  So what is a single parent to do when the tuition bill comes but the child support check has stopped?
For many years, attorneys in SC have faced a daunting task in attempting to advise clients on how to collect monies for college expenses from a non-custodial parent.  Finally, thirty-one (31) years after Risinger v. Risinger, our Supreme Court answered the question once and for all in a case called Webb v. Sowell.   The Court found that requiring a parent who is subject to a child support order to contribute to an emancipated child’s post-secondary education violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution.  The Equal Protection Clause provides that no person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws.
So what does that mean?  That’s a good question.  Consider this:  if you and your spouse have a child, you have no legal obligation to provide support of any kind to that child beyond that child’s emancipation.  So once your child is an adult, you are free from the legal monetary requirements.  The equal protection clause requires that we all be treated equally, that we are all the same in the eyes of the law.  So being divorced, and not having custody, cannot put a more onerous requirement on a parent with regard to post-emancipation support.   
The answer in such cases now is that absent some agreement, a parent cannot be ordered to pay for a child’s college education.  Why anyone would agree to such a Court order is beyond me.  It is important to note that a parent can still voluntarily contribute to a child’s college education without being ordered to do so.  No legal obligation is created by that act.  
The good news is that there are more grants and loans available for a young person’s college education than ever before.  That, plus hard work, is the only way a young person can assure him or herself of a college education.  Of course, as I often state, moral obligations and legal obligations are two different things.  It remains my personal opinion that we have a moral obligation to educate our children.

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