Former Wife Found in Contempt For Refusing to Pay College Expenses

A decision rendered in the Connecticut Superior Court illustrates the potential consequences of entering into an ambiguous agreement regarding the payment of college expenses.  In this particular case, the parties obtained an uncontested divorce on September 8, 2008.  Pursuant to the terms of their separation agreement, the parties were each responsible for paying 50% of their children’s “actual college education.”

Except for the designation “actual college education,” the language of the agreement tracked the language of C.G.S.A. §46b-56c in that educational costs were to include room, board, dues, tuition, books, fees, registration costs, and application costs up to the amount charged by the University of Connecticut for a full-time, in-state student.

When the parties’ older son attended technical school, both the mother and father contributed to the cost.  However, when the parties’ younger son enrolled in college, the mother refused to contribute, claiming she was entitled to a credit because the younger son’s technical school education was not “actual college” as set forth in the parties’ separation agreement.  The father filed a motion for contempt against the mother seeking an order of enforcement.

Relying, at least in part, on another Connecticut Superior Court decision which addressed a nearly identical issue, the Court found that the term “college” as used in the parties’ separation agreement did in fact include technical school.  Therefore, the mother was obligated to contribute toward both the older son’s vocational education and the younger son’s college education.  Since she failed to do so, the Court found the mother in contempt and ordered her to pay the husband the outstanding balance within thirty days.

If you have questions regarding alimony and college expenses, or any family law matter, contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.