Section 46b-56c of the General Statutes governs educational support orders. It allows a court to enter an order requiring one or both parents to pay for the child’s college expenses.
Before entering such an order, however, the court must first find “that it is more likely than not the parties would have provided support for college had the family remained intact.” Of course, the parents can testify regarding their intentions for the payment of college. Evidence of the parent’s educational background and the establishment of college savings accounts would also assist the court in making this finding.
Once the court has made this finding, the court can generally entertain and order one of the following options:
1. The Parents can Waive the Statute.
This option means that the parents agree that the court should not enter an educational support order at this time or at any point in the future. While this option does not preclude either parent from contributing to his or her child’s college education in the future, neither parent is required. If a parent does not contribute, the other parent cannot return to court to ask that the court order that parent to contribute.
2. The Court can Retain Jurisdiction.
This option is common. By asking the court to retain jurisdiction, the parents are asking the court to decide, at a later date, how college should be paid. If the court retains jurisdiction, the most the court can order the parents to pay is the cost of attendance for an in-state student at UConn Storrs. For the 2019-2020 school year, the cost of attendance for an in-state student at UConn Storrs was $33,692. This limitation is commonly referred to as the “UCONN Cap.” This limitation applies regardless of the school that the child attends. The parents may agree to waive this limitation, however, so long as they agree in writing. If the parties agree as to what each should pay at the time the child enters college, then the court will simply approve their agreement. If they cannot agree, the court will hold a hearing and decide what portion, if any, each parent should pay.
3. The Parents can Agree on how College is to be Paid.
This option allows the parents to specify each parent’s contribution. It makes the most sense to specify each parent’s contribution in cases in which the child is close to starting college. While seemingly practical, this option might not always be feasible. Some parents are unwilling to commit to paying a percentage of an unknown amount in the future without knowing what his or her financial circumstances will be at the time.
The lawyers of Ferro & Battey, LLC have extensive experience in all issues relating to educational support orders, including experience in both the trial court and the Appellate Court. For more information on what option might work best in your case, contact Ferro & Battey, LLC.