Posts tagged with "educational support order"

Educational Expenses in Divorce

Educational expenses in divorce include expenses associated with higher education. Pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-56c, an educational support order is defined as an order requiring a parent to provide support for a child or children to attend, for up to four full academic years, an institution of higher education or a private occupational school for the purpose of attaining a bachelor’s or other undergraduate degree, or other appropriate vocational instruction.  Parties may request an “educational support order” either at the time of the divorce or at some point afterwards.  If the Court does not enter an educational support order at the time of the divorce, however, the parties must specifically request that it retain jurisdiction over the matter, otherwise they will be precluded from seeking such an order at a later date.

Additionally, although C.G.S. §46b-56c defines “necessary educational expenses,” parties should cite the statute or define the phrase themselves if they enter into a separation agreement.  Indeed, if they fail to do so, the meaning may be left open to interpretation.  In Bollinger v. Feldman, Superior Court, Judicial District of Hartford, Docket No. FA020731923 (Nov. 18, 2010, Adelman, J.), the parties obtained a divorce by way of an agreement containing a provision titled “College Education of the Children.”  When one of the children took a college-level summer course for credit (while still a high school student), the father refused to contribute toward the tuition fee, claiming that it did not fall within the meaning of “college expenses” as set forth in the parties’ agreement.

The Court noted that the parties did not reference C.G.S. §46b-56c in their agreement; rather they used the phrase “all college expenses.”  However, the parties did not define the phrase, include qualifying language such as “reasonable and necessary,” or specify that such expenses would include only post-secondary education.  On that basis the Court held that since the course was given at a college, and the child earned college credits for her work, the expense must be covered under the parties’ agreement.  Given the vast array of expenses associated with sending a child to college, it is important to pay close attention to the language used in a separation agreement.  Indeed, as the case above illustrates, if parties fail to do so, they could find themselves litigating an otherwise avoidable issue.

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

Court Decides Issue of First Impression Regarding Payment of College Expenses

In a recent decision, a Connecticut Superior Court addressed an issue of first impression regarding the payment of college expenses, namely whether the Connecticut Superior Courts have the authority to enter an educational support order for a child that has reached the age of majority when entering a child support order for a minor child.  The parties in this particular case were married in Chile and had two children before obtaining a divorce (also in Chile) in 1991.  The Chilean divorce decree did not contain any provisions regarding child support or the payment of college expenses.

The parties subsequently moved to the United States, and in February 2012, the children’s mother filed a motion requesting that the father pay child support for their minor son and also contribute toward the cost of their older daughter’s college expenses.  When the mother filed the motion, the parties’ son was fourteen and the parties’ daughter was eighteen.

Generally speaking, C.G.S.A. 46b-56c authorizes a court to issue an educational support order requiring a parent to provide support for a child or children to attend for up to a total of four full academic years an institution of higher education or a private occupational school for the purpose of attaining a bachelor’s or other undergraduate degree, or other appropriate vocational instruction.  The statute provides that a court, on motion or petition of a parent, may enter an educational support order at the time of entering: a decree of dissolution, legal separation or annulment; an order for support pendente lite; a support order where parents of a minor child live separately; or a judgment of paternity.  However, the statute also provides that, “On motion or petition of a parent, the court may enter an educational support order at the time of entering an order pursuant to any other provision of the general statutes authorizing the court to make an order of support for a child…” As the Court in this case explained, at any of those points, “[a]n educational support order may be entered with respect to any child who has not attained twenty-three years of age . . .”

In the aforementioned case, the Court held that the provisions of §46b-56c clearly provide that an educational support order may be entered with respect to any child who has not attained twenty-three years of age at the time the court enters an order of support pursuant to any provision of the General Statutes.  According to the Court, nothing in the plain language of §46b-56c requires that the educational support order be issued for the same child for whom the support order is being entered.  Additionally, nothing in the statutory language suggests that the court’s authority to enter an educational support order for a child that has reached the age of majority is limited in cases where a parent’s younger child qualifies for support.

Litigants should be aware of the fact that the foregoing decision is persuasive (as opposed to binding authority) at best, and contains facts that may distinguish the case from their own.  Indeed, it is important to have a comprehensive understanding of the statutes and case law governing the payment of college expenses, particularly because parties are generally precluded from seeking post judgment orders regarding college expenses unless the court specifically retains jurisdiction over the issue during the final dissolution hearing.

Should you have any questions regarding educational support orders, or divorce matters in general, please feel free to contact Joseph Maya.  He can be reached in the firm’s Westport office at (203) 221-3100 or by e-mail at JMaya@gmail.com.

What Does a Court Consider When Deciding an Educational Support Order in Connecticut?

In determining whether to enter an educational support order in Connecticut, the court considers all relevant circumstances.  Under the bill these circumstances include: the parents income, assets, and other obligations; the child’s need for support; the availability of financial aid; the reasonableness of the higher education to be funded (the court looks to the child’s academic record); the likelihood that the parents would have provided support to the child for higher education if the family were still intact; and the child’s preparation and commitment to higher education.  The bill also requires that both parents discuss and agree on the school, and imposes obligations on the child who is to receive the assistance.  The student must be enrolled in an institution of higher education on at least a half-time basis, maintain good academic standing, and share all academic records with both parents during the term of order.

If you have any questions related to education law in Connecticut, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at (203) 221-3100 or e-mail him directly at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

What is an Educational Support Order in Connecticut?

An educational support order is an order entered by a court requiring a parent to provide for a child to attend an institution of higher education or a private occupational school for the purpose of attaining a bachelor’s degree, other undergraduate degree, or other appropriate vocational instruction.  Orders may include support for any necessary educational expense, including room, board, dues, tuition, books, fees, registration and application costs, and medical and dental expenses including health insurance.  A court can order a payment to be made (1) to a parent to be forwarded to the college or school, (2) directly to the school, or (3) however the court deems appropriate.

The purpose of an Educational Support Order is to help children of divorced parents afford higher education.  The OLR bill permits judges to order divorcing parents, and fathers subject to paternity orders, to support their offspring who enroll in accredited college or vocational programs after high school until they reach age 23.  Support Orders apply to cases where the first child support order is entered on or after October 1, 2002.  Parents must ask the court to enter such orders, and can do so at any time before the child’s 23rd birthday.

If you have any questions related to education law in Connecticut, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at (203) 221-3100 or e-mail him directly at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Paying College Education After Divorce

At the time of a divorce, parties can reserve jurisdiction, a court’s authority to decide an issue, over matters regarding their child’s post-secondary education expenses.  It is particularly helpful to reserve jurisdiction if the parties have young children, as a family’s needs may change and one parent may wish to seek assistance from the other parent in facilitating their child’s college education.

The court may enter an educational support order for any child under the age of 23 after considering the following factors:

  1. The parents’ income, assets and other obligations, including obligations to other dependents;
  2. The child’s need for support to attend an institution of higher education or private occupational school considering the child’s assets and the child’s ability to earn income;
  3. The availability of financial aid from other sources, including grants and loans;
  4. The reasonableness of the higher education to be funded considering the child’s academic record and the financial resources available;
  5. The child’s preparation for, aptitude for and commitment to higher education; and
  6. Evidence, if any, of the institution of higher education or private occupational school the child would attend.

It is important to note that in Connecticut, if the parties do not explicitly reserve jurisdiction, then the court will be unable to set down an educational support order after a divorce has occurred. The court is also restricted from entering an order beyond the cost of University of Connecticut tuition for a full-time student.

If you have questions regarding educational support orders, or any education matter contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.