Court Explains Books are Not Included in the Definition of Necessary Educational Expenses

In a recent decision, the Superior Court addressed the impact of C.G.S.A. § 46b-56c on the parties’ respective obligations to contribute toward the cost of books required for their child’s college education.  By way of background, the parties obtained an uncontested divorce on January 23, 2008.  Pursuant to the terms of their separation agreement, the plaintiff husband was responsible for 100% of the cost of their children’s post secondary education in accordance with the limitations and definitions set forth in C.G.S.A. §46b-56c.  The parties agreed that if either child attended an institution with costs above those charged by the University of Connecticut, then the parties would be equally responsible for the additional charges.

When one of the parties’ children enrolled at a college other than the University of Connecticut, the defendant claimed that she should only have to pay 50% of the cost of books above the amount charged by UCONN.  The Court rejected the mother’s argument, however, holding that C.G.S.A. § 46b-56c specifically provides that the UCONN cap includes room, board, tuition, fees, registration costs and application costs, but not books.  Indeed, since books are not expressly enumerated as a necessary educational expense, according to the Court, the mother was responsible for 50% of the entire amount.

The mother also claimed that the UCONN cap relates to a full-time student on an annual basis and, therefore, she should not be required to contribute to the cost of tuition until the end of a full academic year.  The Court rejected this argument as well, explaining that C.G.S.A. §46b-56c does not speak to the timing of payments; it does not provide an annual formula, nor does it require that payments only be made annually.  Thus, the Court held that the mother had an obligation to pay her share of the tuition costs on a semester basis.

By: Michael D. DeMeola, Esq.

Should you have any questions regarding post secondary educational orders, or divorce matters generally, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph Maya.  He can be reached in the firm’s Westport office at (203) 221-3100, or by e-mail at JMaya@mayalaw.com.
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