August is when the college students start returning to the University of Colorado for the fall semester. College expenses can be a significant family expense. Absent agreement, Colorado judges no longer have the authority to order the sharing of college expense orders between divorcing parents. However, if the parents agree to share these expenses as part of any written settlement, the district court will enforce that agreement. An agreement to share responsibility for college expenses needs to be carefully considered before finalized and submitted to the court. Agreeing to pay a fixed percentage of an unknown future cost is a risk. One needs to think about a number of issues. How much will that cost be ten years from now? Will I have the same income and financial resources then as I do now to be able to share the cost? For how many years of college should I be responsible? What if my child decides to take six or seven years to graduate? What costs should I agree to share? Is tuition, room and board enough? Should I limit my responsibility to in-state tuition only? What if my child wants to attend an expensive private school that costs $50,000 a year or more? Should my responsibility be conditioned upon my child maintaining a certain grade point average? Should transportation costs to fly my child to and from college be included in the agreement? What other issues should I consider?
Because of the ever escalating costs and the various unknowns, few couples today are willing to enter into college education expense orders. Instead, they want to negotiate their respective financial responsibilities on a yearly basis as the expense comes up and their financial situations at that time are known. Even those who have secure financial means want limits and controls in the agreement so they know exactly what they are committing to fund.
Before signing any agreement to pay college education expenses, you should consult with a family law attorney to discuss the potential pitfalls involved and understand the choices available.