May 18, 2022

Refusing to Participate in College Decisions – A Losing Proposition

            If a judge finds that it is more likely than not that divorced parents would have provided support for their child for college or vocational education if the family remained intact, the judge may issue an “educational support order” to require that support.   It isn’t automatic – there are a number of factors for the judge to consider.  And there are limits. The order can’t be issued for a child after age 22 and ceases when the child reaches 23.  Either it must be issued at the time of the divorce or the judge has to reserve jurisdiction to issue one later.  The maximum amount, a parent can be forced to pay, unless the parents agree to more, is based on the cost of in-state full-time attendance at UConn.

            The law requires that both parents “shall participate in, and agree upon” the school that the child will attend.  If they can’t agree, then a judge may decide.  A recent case clarifies the participation requirement. The evidence showed the mom sought the dad’s participation throughout the process.  For example, she suggested that he arrange college trips with his daughter, told him of the schools the daughter was considering and where she chose to go and provided financial aid documents. When the mom sought an educational support order for college expenses, the dad argued that since he hadn’t participated in the decision, he shouldn’t have to pay. 

            The court found that the dad “excluded himself entirely from the college selection process.”  He ignored almost all the mom’s messages and never discussed the application process or final college choice with the mom or the daughter. The court wouldn’t allow the dad to evade responsibility by engaging in a course of conduct that violated his duty to participate in the selection process.

            The lesson:  If you want an educational support order, as the mom in this case did, you need repeatedly to invite participation by the former spouse and provide information, even if there isn’t a response. On the other side, you won’t be able to avoid one by simply ignoring the issue. 

This article first appeared in the May 5, 2022 edition of The Cheshire Citizen.

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