Termination of Support-College Support Beyond the Age of Majority

5/6/2015

college students sitting in parkThe "age of majority" is the legal age established under state law at which an individual is no longer a minor and, as a young adult, has the right and responsibility to make certain legal choices that adults make. Thus, when people use the term age of majority, they are generally referring to when a young person reaches the age where one is considered to be an adult. The majority of states use 18 as the age of majority (in cases where the youth is still in high school the age of majority may extend beyond 18).  In some states, child support stops when a child is 18 or graduates from high school, in others, it stops at 21 (For more information, visit Termination of Support- Age of Majority). The majority of states use 18 as the age of majority (in cases where the youth is still in high school the age of majority may extend beyond 18). States may order support  if the child is disabled (For more information, visit Termination of Support- Exception for Adult Children with Disabilities).

Some state laws give courts the power to award college support beyond the age of majority, also called post-secondary or post-minority support. College support may be in addition to child support, a part of child support, or a separate payment after regular child support ends. It can be used to pay for an education at a college, university, vocational school, or other type of post-secondary educational institution.  Other states have no statutes holding parents responsible for college support; however, parents may include provisions for a college education in the child support agreement.

Below is a chart detailing how states deal with college support. Many states have caselaw which allows for an order of college support, some states have placed it in statute, either allowing for an order or allowing the parties to agree to college support, and others do not provide for college support in statute or caselaw.

For 2012-2015 legislative action, check out NCSL's Child Support and Family Law Legislation Database under the "Guidelines" topic.

50-State College Support Laws

State

Duty to Provide College Support

 Citation

Alabama

No duty to provide college support.

Ex parte Christopher (Ala. Oct. 4, 2013)

Alaska

Courts may not require either parent to pay for post-majority college support.

H.P.A. v. S.C.A., 704 P.2d 205 (Alaska 1985)

Arizona

No statute or case law holding parents to a duty to college support in the absence of an agreement; courts will enforce contracts to provide such support.

Solomon v. Findley, 167 Ariz. 409, 808 P.2d 294 (1991).

Arkansas

No statute or case law holding parents to a duty to college support in the absence of an agreement. Once child reaches majority, the legal duty of the parents to provide support ends.

Towery v. Towery, 285 Ark. 113, 685 S.W.2d 155 (1985).

California

No statute or case law holding parents to a duty to college support in the absence of an agreement.

 

Colorado

For orders entered prior to July 1, 1997, if the court finds that it is appropriate for the parents to contribute to the costs of a program of postsecondary education, then the court shall terminate child support and enter an order requiring both parents to contribute to the education expenses of the child. The court may not issue orders for both child support and postsecondary education to be paid at the same time.

See In re marriage of Robb, 934 P.2d 927 (Col. Ct. App. 1997).

 

After July 1, 1997, Colo. Rev. Stat. §14-10-115(1.6) provides the court may not so order, unless certain conditions exist.

Connecticut

The court may enter an order with respect to the education of a child through the age of 23 for the purpose of obtaining a bachelor's degree or vocational instruction.

Conn. Gen. Stat. §46b-56c

Delaware

No statute or case law holding parents to a duty to college support in the absence of an agreement.

 

District of Columbia

No statute or case law holding parents to a duty to college support.

 

Florida

No statute or case law holding parents to a duty to college support in the absence of an agreement. Courts will compel postsecondary support upon a finding of actual "dependency," but attendance at college does not necessarily render a child dependent.

Slaton v. Slaton, 428 So.2d 347 (Fla. DCA 1983).

Georgia

If specified in an order.

 

Guam

By agreement of the parents to extend the obligation beyond age 18.

 

Hawaii

In those cases where child support payments are to continue due to the adult child's pursuance of education, the agency, at least three months prior to the adult child's nineteenth birthday, shall send notice by regular mail to the adult child and the custodial parent that prospective child support will be suspended unless proof is provided by the custodial parent or adult child to the child support enforcement agency, prior to the child's nineteenth birthday, that the child is presently enrolled as a full-time student in school or has been accepted into and plans to attend as a full-time student for the next semester a post-high school university, college or vocational school.

 

a)  The court shall have continuing jurisdiction to modify or revoke a judgment or order: (1)  For future education and support; and

Hawaii Rev. Stat. § 576E-14;

Hawaii Rev. Stat. § 584-18

Idaho

No statute or case law holding parents to a duty to college support in the absence of an independent agreement.

See Noble v. Fisher, 126 Idaho 885, 894 P.2d 118 (1995) (where father agreed to pay half of college expenses in separation agreement and agreement was merged into decree, agreement was unenforceable as contract).

Illinois

The court may make provisions for the education expenses of the children of the marriage, whether of minor or majority age.

Ill Rev. Stat. ch. 750, § 5-513

Indiana

If ordered before July 1, 2012, educational needs support is possible until age 21. If ordered after June 30, 2012, educational needs support is possible until age 19.

 

Child support order may include sums for the child's education at institutions of higher learning, where appropriate.

Ind. Code § 31-16-6-6(c)

Ind. Code § 31-16-6-2

Iowa

"Support" means an obligation which may include support for a child who is between the ages of 18 and 22 who is regularly attending an accredited school or is, in good faith, a full time student in college or has been accepted for admission to college for the next term.

Iowa Code § 598.1(8)

Iowa Code §598.1(9)

Iowa Code §598.21f

Kansas

No statute or case law holding parents to a duty to college support in the absence of an agreement.

 

Kentucky

No statute or case law holding parents to a duty to college support in the absence of an agreement.

See Reed v. Reed, 457 S.W.2d 4 (Ky. 1970).

Louisiana

No statute or case law holding parents to a duty to college support in the absence of an agreement.

 

Maine

No statute or case law holding parents to a duty to college support in the absence of an agreement.

 

Maryland

The Maryland child support guidelines provide that in determining whether the application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate in a particular case, the court may consider the terms of any existing separating or property settlement agreement or court order, including any provisions for payment of college educational expenses.

Md. Family Law Code Ann. § 12-202

Massachusetts

A court, in its discretion, may order support up to age 23 if a child is domiciled with a parent and principally dependent on that parent due to the child's enrollment in an education program, excluding educational costs beyond an undergraduate degree.

Mass. Gen. Laws. Ch. 208, § 28

 

See Doe v. Roe, 585 N.E.2d 340 (1992)

Michigan

No statute or case law holding parents to a duty to college support in the absence of an agreement.

 

Minnesota

Support can extend beyond this date if specifically addressed in the order and if parties had agreed to an educational trust fund for cost of post-secondary education.

Minn. Stat. § 518.551 subd. 5d

Mississippi

If the parties agree, support may continue beyond the age of majority.

 

Since the age of majority in Mississippi is 21, support for college expenses may be ordered up to that age.

Stokes v. Martin, 596 So.2d 879 (Miss. 1992)

Missouri

If the child is enrolled in an institution of higher education, the parental support obligation shall continue until the child completes his education or until the child reaches the age of 22, whichever occurs first.

Mo. Rev. Stat. § 452.340.5

Montana

No duty to provide college support.

 

Nebraska

A district court in a dissolution action may not order child support beyond the age of the majority of a child over the objection of any parent absent a previous agreement between the parents. In this case, the parents' prior agreement was enforced.

Zetterman v. Zetterman, 245 Neb. 255, 512 N.W.2d 622 (1994).

Nevada

No statute or case law holding parents to a duty to college support in the absence of an agreement.

 

New Hampshire

Agreement on College Expenses. Parents may agree to contribute to their child's college expenses or other educational expenses beyond the completion of high school as part of a stipulated decree, signed by both parents and approved by the court. The agreed-on contribution may be made by one or both parents. The agreement may provide for contributions to an account to save for college, for the use of an asset, or for payment of educational expenses as incurred. Any such agreement shall specify the amount of the contribution, a percentage, or a formula to determine the amount of the contribution.

N.H. Rev. Stat. § 461-A:21

New Jersey

Child support will terminate when the child reaches age 19 unless he or she is a student in a post-secondary education program and is enrolled in the number of hours or courses the school considers to be full-time attendance. In that case, child support may be extended o

2015 SB 1046

New Mexico

No statute or case law holding parents to a duty to college support in the absence of an agreement.

 

New York

The court may award educational expenses, such as for college or private school or for special enriched education. A parent may not, however, be directed to pay child support and/or contribute toward college education expenses for a child who is 21 years of age or older absent express agreement to do so.

N.Y. Dom. Rel. Law § 240(1-b)(c )(7)

 

See Setford v. Cavanaugh, 175 A.D.2d 665, 572 N.Y.S.2d 591 (1991).

North Carolina

No statute or case law holding parents to a duty to college support in the absence of an agreement.

 

North Dakota

Allows a court to order support past the age of majority if the parties agree or the court deems it appropriate.

N.D. Cent. Code §14-09-08.2(6)

 

See Donarski v. Donarski, 581 N.E.2d 130 (N.D. 1998) (citing Newburgh v. Arrigo, from New Jersey); Johnson v. Johnson, 527 N.W. 2d 663 (N.D. 1995).

Ohio

No statute or case law holding parents to a duty to college support in the absence of an agreement.

 

Oklahoma

No statute or case law holding parents to a duty to college support in the absence of an agreement.

 

Oregon

Authorizes a court to order a parent to pay support for a child regularly attending post-secondary education to age 21.

Or. Rev. Stat. § 107.108

 

In re Marriage of Crocker, 157 Or. App. 651, 971 P.2d 469 (1998).

Pennsylvania

No statute or case law holding parents to a duty to college support in the absence of an agreement. 

 

Contractually based agreements for post-secondary educational support contained in marital separation agreements are enforceable.

Pa. Cons. Stat. tit. 23, §4327(a)

 

See Curtis v. Kline, 542 Pa. 249, 666 A.2d 265 (1995).

Puerto Rico

Support beyond the age of majority could be ordered only by the court if the child is a full time student, maintains good academic progress and can demonstrate economic needs to justify continuation of support.

 

Rhode Island

No statute or case law holding parents to a duty to college support in the absence of an agreement.

 

South Carolina

Court may order college support. (jurisdiction of the family court is permitted in cases of children over 18 years of age where exceptional circumstances warrant it; family court judge may require a parent to contribute that amount of money necessary to enable a child over 18 to attend high school and four years of college, where there is evidence that: (1) the characteristics of the child indicate that he or she will benefit from college; (2) the child demonstrates the ability to do well, or at least make satisfactory grades; (3) the child cannot otherwise go to school; and (4) the parent has the financial ability to help pay for such an education).

Risinger v. Risinger, 273 S.C. 36, 253 S.E.2d 652 (1979); West v. West, 309 S.C. 28, 419 S.E.2d 804 (Ct. App. 1992)

South Dakota

No statute or case law holding parents to a duty to college support in the absence of an agreement.

 

Tennessee

No statute or case law holding parents to a duty to college support in the absence of an agreement

See also Nash v. Mulle, 846 S.W.2d 803 (Tenn. 1993)(the extent to which a trust fund established during the child's minority for her later college education is permitted).

Texas

No statute or case law holding parents to a duty to college support in the absence of an agreement.

 

Utah

In divorce actions, courts may order support to age 21.

Utah Code Ann. § 15-2-1

Vermont

No statute or case law holding parents to a duty to college support in the absence of an agreement.

 

Virgin Islands

Support may continue up to age 22 so long as proof is submitted that the child is enrolled and attending college on a full time basis. Proof must be submitted in the form of an official letter from the school registrar certifying, not just enrollment, but attendance on a full time basis. 

 

Virginia

In addition, the court may confirm a stipulation or agreement of the parties which extends a support obligation beyond when it would otherwise terminate as provided by law.

Va. Code § 20-124.2

Washington

The court may, in its discretion and according to enumerated factors, award college support.

Wash. Rev. Code § 26.19.090

West Virginia

No duty of college support imposed.

 

Wisconsin

No statute or case law holding parents to a duty to college support in the absence of an agreement.

 

Wyoming

No statute or case law holding parents to a duty to college support in the absence of an agreement.

 

Source: Office of Child Support Enforcement Intergovernmental Referral Guide, 2012; Morgan, Laura W., Child Support Guidelines, 1998 Supplement, Aspen Law & Business, New York, 1998, and 2014 update; NCSL Research

*PLEASE NOTE: The National Conference of State Legislatures is an organization serving state legislators and their staff. We cannot offer legal advice or assistance with individual cases, but we do try to answer questions on general topics.

About This NCSL Project

NCSL staff in D.C. and Denver can provide comprehensive, thorough, and timely information on critical child support policy issues. We provide services to legislators and staff working to improve state policies affecting children and their families. NCSL's online clearinghouse for state legislators includes resources on child support policy, financing, laws, research and promising practices. Technical assistance visits to states are available to any state legislature that would like training or assistance related to this topic.

The Denver-based child support project staff focuses on state policy, tracking legislation and providing research and policy analysis, consultation, and technical assistance specifically geared to the legislative audience. Denver staff can be reached at (303) 364-7700 or cyf-info@ncsl.org.

NCSL staff in Washington, D.C. track and analyze federal legislation and policy and represent state legislatures on child support issues before Congress and the Administration. Staff in D.C. can be reached at (202) 624-5400 or cyf-info@ncsl.org.

The child support project and D.C. human services staff receive guidance and support from NCSL's Standing Committee on Health & Human Services.

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