Parents in Texas, just like everywhere else, have a legal duty to provide for their children, whether the parents are married or not. When going through a divorce, most parents are unsure how to support their children as they grow up, especially after they get to college.

Some divorcing parents overlook financial support for college fees, yet they could create a child support plan that covers that need. If you have questions about whose responsibility it is to pay for college fees after a divorce, consult a family law and estate planning law firm in San Antonio. The lawyers can provide legal counsel and guide you on what to do.

Aren’t Educational Expenses Automatically Covered in Child Support? Order

Unfortunately, college expenses are not included in child support as the law doesn’t obligate parents to pay their children’s college expenses. In fact, child support generally ends when a child has reached the age of 18 and graduated from high school, and, without an agreement, judges cannot extend the child support beyond that without proof that the child is disabled and unable to support themselves. That’s where a child support agreement comes in handy as part of the divorce settlement or post-nuptial agreement. The court can uphold that agreement or enforce it as a contract to ensure college fees are paid by the party responsible.

Texas Law About College Expenses and Child Support?

Texas divorce laws have no statutory provision for college expenses under the Texas Family Code. Instead, Section 154.001(a) stipulates that child support is largely intended for minors and children with a disability. More specially, the law makes it clear that:

  • The court may order one or both parents to provide support for the child as the order specifies until the child attains the age of 18 or until they graduate from high school, whichever comes later. 

Under this code, courts cannot mandate parents to contribute college expenses as part of the child support obligation. However, courts uphold child support agreements or contracts that divorcing parents make during a divorce concerning college expenses. That means they can enforce the agreement in the child’s best interests. In other words, you cannot argue to a judge that it should be awarded if the parties don’t agree, but through negotiation or mediation, a lawyer can write it into the child support order as a contract.

Working with a skilled child support lawyer in San Antonio to create a college support agreement is advisable. They can analyze the details in the agreement and ensure it’s enforceable if a dispute arises later. 

What Should Be Covered in a Child Support Agreement?

When creating a child support agreement, it’s crucial to remember that it can only be enforced if it’s in writing and signed. Courts in Texas don’t enforce verbal contracts of this kind, in addition to the fact that oral agreements are unreliable, no matter how amicable the divorce was. Circumstances may change, forcing one or both parents to change their minds about what they said.

An effective child support agreement that accounts for college fees should clearly outline the following:

  • The estimated tuition costs
  • Related college expenses like transport, allowance, and boarding
  • The amount of college costs each parent will pay
  • Whether the payments will be remitted directly to the college or sent to the other parent or the child
  • If there are specific conditions the child must fulfill for college tuition to continue being paid

Reaching an agreement may not always be seamless. A San Antonio college student child support lawyer can mediate the process to help you reach an amicable agreement with your ex-spouse. Once the deal is in writing, the lawyer can incorporate it in the final divorce decree, making it enforceable if your ex-spouse violates it later. 

What If a Parent Violates a Child Support Order?

Violating child support orders can have severe consequences in Texas. The non-paying parent who was ordered to pay can be held in contempt of court for failing to obey the orders. Contempt of court can lead to jail time. In some cases, the court may take the following actions against the non-paying parent:

  • Place them on community supervision or probation for up to 10 years, depending on the case details. Violating the community supervision terms can lead to jail time
  • Order the non-paying parent to pay back the child support payments they missed and attorney fees for the enforcement, with interest, either in a lump sum or as payments in addition to regular child support
  • Order that the monthly payments for unpaid back child support shall continue until paid in full even after the child has reached age 18 and graduated from high school
  • Order them to attend financial counseling classes 
  • Order the suspension of the parent’s driver’s license or other professional licenses and certificates 
  • Have properties, bank accounts, and other assets held by the non-paying parent placed on a lien (and the attorney general can intercept tax refunds as well).

If your ex-spouse violates college tuition or child support orders outlined in your divorce decree, consult an experienced college child support attorney in San Antonio. They can assess your case and help you create a strategy to fight for your child’s best interests to ensure their quality of life. 

Can A Child Support Agreement Be Modified?

Divorced parents whose circumstances change and make it impossible for them to meet their child support obligations can modify their agreement if they already have one. The Attorney General of Texas stipulates that divorced parents can change their agreement under the following circumstances:

  • If it has been more than three years since the last alteration of the order 
  • If the agreed-upon amount of child support differs by either $100 or 20% due to a change in their financial situation (which was not intentional on the part of the parent)
  • If a substantial change has happened in either parent’s life since the enactment of the original support order 

Child support modification can happen through a court hearing or the child support review process. However, there must be a written order to make the change, and it generally cannot retroactively reduce the child support that was already owed before suit was filed or the agreement reached. If you need help starting the process, consult a family law and estate planning law firm in San Antonio for legal counsel and guidance. The lawyers can help you file a petition for a court hearing. 

Support Your Child’s Dreams Through Skilled Legal Representation

Children in Texas are legally eligible for child support until they reach 18 or graduate from high school, whichever comes last. In some situations, the support can be extended to cover college fees but it will not happen automatically. Consult a passionate San Antonio child support attorney for legal guidance if you want to include a college support agreement in your divorce settlement or alter the terms.

Our child support lawyers can work with you to protect your child’s best interests. We aim to help clients navigate the complex and sometimes confusing process of establishing a child support agreement that works for their families. If you have questions about college fees for your child after your divorce, we can help. Contact us to schedule an initial consultation.