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Are divorced parents obligated to pay for college?

While it comes as little surprise that many non-custodial parents must continue to pay child support while their child is in college, it could come as more a shock that divorced Pennsylvania parents may both be required to pay for college. In a recent case that has made headlines across the country, a 19-year-old is suing her parents for college expenses while she attends Temple University.

The case surprised the parents, who hadn't heard from their daughter since she moved out of her mother's home early last year. The next things these parents knew, they were being brought to court to answer for not paying their daughter's tuition costs. The lawsuit is being funded by the paternal grandparents, which is also where the teen currently lives. The teen also wanted her parents to pay for a car and a $906 bill. The car was denied, but the other bill will be dealt with in another hearing.

According to some analysts, the main factor in this lawsuit is what is actually considered the age of majority. For most non-custodial parents, a child is still considered a parent's responsibility until he or she turns 21; however, depending on the court, it could be as low as 18.

So, should divorced parents have more of an obligation to pay for college than parents who are still married. In Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court ruled in a 1995 case that divorced, separated or unmarried parents both have an obligation to pay for college. Pennsylvania is alone in this ruling, as most other states have long held to the belief that the non-custodial parent is the one that needs to pay. For the parents of this teen, a divorce 17 years ago has made success for this lawsuit a possibility.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, it's important to seek legal advice as soon as possible. Not all states will have similar laws or court rulings, but it is better to understand your legal options right from the start.

Source: Slate, "Are Parents Obliged to Pay for College?" John Culhane, Dec. 04, 2014

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