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From Diapers to Diplomas: College Costs and Child Support in Minnesota

It is no secret that college costs keep rising; in-state tuition and fees at the University of Minnesota will top $15,000 per year this fall (not including books or room and board). This means that the total cost of a four-year degree at “the U” can easily top $100,000. Other colleges are even more expensive. Even when a student receives grants, scholarships, or other forms of financial aid, the out-of-pocket cost can be daunting.

Because of this, parents sometimes ask if the Court can order their ex-spouse to pay college expenses as part of child support. The short answer is, no. Except in the case of a child who in incapable of self-support because of a mental or physical condition, child support is paid until child turns 18, or up to age 20 if the child is still in secondary school. Once the child has BOTH turned 18 AND graduated, he or she is “emancipated” and child support ends. Bottom line, there is no statutory authority for the Court to order either parent to pay college costs or to contribute to a college savings account.

That said, parents can agree to include college-payment language in their divorce decree. For example, you may agree that each parent will contribute a set amount of money per year to a child’s college savings plan, that one parent will cover the cost of in-state tuition for four years, or that one parent will pay tuition while the other covers room and board. The options are only limited by the imaginations of the parties (or their lawyers). So long as the parties agree and include language allocating responsibility for payment of college expenses in the decree, the Court will enforce it.

To discuss this or any other child support issue, call Kruse Family Law at 612.231.9865 or email

Responsibility for college costs can be part of a voluntary agreement in your divorce decree

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