In Utah and other states, college expenses such as tuition, books, travel expenses and medical costs are sometimes included in child support agreements or orders. Judges often look at different factors, such as the parents’ finances, other available financial resources such as grants and scholarships and the child’s academic record and intent to go to college when determining whether to make college expenses part of a child support order. When college expenses are awarded, they go to the custodial parent and not directly to the children.
No exact formula exists to calculate college support, so courts will usually decide on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the ability of the non-custodial parent to pay. Some states, however, have developed guidelines related to college expenses and child support. If student lives in a dorm at their school for part of the year, the amount of money a parent has to pay in child support would likely be less than if the child lived at home.
If children qualify for financial aid such as loans, grants or scholarships, judges can make sure that the students accept the financial aid offered to them and tailor their child support orders accordingly. Some courts also look at whether children choose public or private institutions when deciding whether to incorporate college expenses into child support.
Having to pay for their children’s college expenses as part of child support orders can mean that non-custodial parents are obligated to continue to make payments after their children turn 18 years old, which otherwise is usually the normal age of emancipation. Similar to alimony, child support can be modified or terminated in some cases based on the changed financial circumstances of the parent.