Q: What are the guidelines for secondary education and the contribution by each parent in a divorced household in CT?
If the tuition bill is 30k - is the level of contribution based on income levels? Or is just split 50/50?
A: In Connecticut, educational support orders are governed by Connecticut General Statutes §46b-56c, which authorizes the courts to enter orders defining how parents will handle “necessary educational expenses” which include application costs, registration costs, room, board, dues, tuition, and fees up to the amount charged by the University of Connecticut for a full-time, in-state student at the time the child registers otherwise known as the “UCONN Cap.” The order may account for the cost of books and medical insurance for the child as well, and parents are permitted, upon agreement, to increase the limit beyond the amount charged by the University of Connecticut.
Where parties are able to resolve their case amicably, college expenses may be addressed in one of two ways. First, the parties may simply include in their separation agreement a provision outlining in detail how they will divide such expenses. If the children are very young during the proceedings, and the parties’ circumstances at the time the child will be ready to attend college are unforeseeable, this issue may not be ripe for consideration. In such cases, the parties may wish to defer the issue until the child is older. It is very important to note that if the parties choose this course of action, they must include in their separation agreement a provision expressly requesting that the court retain jurisdiction over issues related to post-secondary educational expenses or it can be forever waived. Indeed, if they fail to do so, the court will not retain jurisdiction, and the parties will be precluded from seeking its involvement in the future. However, if the parties do request that the court retain jurisdiction, either party may request a post judgment educational support order at a later, appropriate time. Once such a post judgment petition for educational support is filed- as with the divorce itself- the parties may either resolve the issue by agreement or request a hearing for this limited purpose.
It is important to note that whether a secondary or post-secondary educational support order is entered at the time of the divorce or post judgment, the court must find that it is more likely than not that the parents would have provided support to the child for higher education if the family remained intact. The parties may stipulate to this fact in an agreement, or leave it up to the court to decide. In either event, assuming that threshold requirement is satisfied, the court will then determine whether an educational support order is appropriate. In doing so, the court will consider all relevant circumstances, including the parents’ income, assets and other obligations; the child’s need for support based on his or her assets and ability to earn income; the availability of financial aid, including grants and loans; the reasonableness of the higher education considering the child’s academic record and financial resources available; and the child’s preparation for, aptitude for and commitment to higher education. Again, just like the underlying divorce action itself, the parties can conduct discovery in this post judgment proceeding to unearth the other’s pecuniary status and earnings. At a minimum, they will each likely have to file Financial Affidavits depicting the current snapshot of their income, expenses, assets and debts. Accordingly, the parties ability to pay is examined by the court to determine a fair and equitable contribution by each parent based on their financial circumstances. If you are referring to private high school tuition, the court will treat the issue the same way, particularly if the child had a history of attending private school. If not, the court may rule that neither party has to contribute to private school unless the child has special needs for such a placement.
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