Posts tagged with "educational support orders"

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.

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.

Recent Decision Suggests Educational Support Orders May Not Be Applied Retroactively

A recent case decided by the Connecticut Appellate Court, suggests Educational Support orders entered pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-56c may not be entered retroactively.  In Kleinman v. Chapnick, 131 Conn. App. 812 (2011), the parties had two children who were over the age of eighteen and enrolled as full-time college students.  During the divorce proceedings, the parties’ older daughter was a senior and their younger daughter was a freshman.  In February 2010, after the parties entered into a final agreement on custody and visitation, a two day trial ensued regarding financial issues.

As part of its decision, the Court ordered the husband to pay 100 percent of the statutory expenses for the education of the parties’ younger daughter beginning with the 2010-2011 school year.  As the Court did not enter an order with respect to the 2009-2010 school year, the wife filed a Motion to Clarify, Correct and/or Reargue.  The Court subsequently heard the wife’s motion, but declined to change its position.

On appeal, the Connecticut Appellate Court found that the husband made voluntary payments for the 2009-2010 school year that exceeded his statutory obligation under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-56c.  More importantly, however, the Court held that Section 46b-56c contains no language authorizing retroactive application, pointing out that various provisions contained within the statute suggest that it is intended to apply prospectively only.  In a footnote, the Court further explained that child support orders cannot be retroactive, and an order for post-majority educational support is in fact an order for child support for college education.

Should you have any questions regarding educational support in the context of divorce proceedings, please feel free to contact Attorney Michael D. DeMeola.  He practices out of the firm’s Westport office and can be reached by telephone at (203) 221-3100 or email at mdemeola@maylaw.com.