Understanding College Expenses in Michigan Child Support Cases
When parents part ways in Michigan, the non-custodial parent is often required to pay child support to assist with the financial needs of their children. However, as children age and transition out of high school, questions frequently arise about the responsibilities parents have regarding the payment of college expenses. In this article, we will explore how Michigan law addresses college expenses within child support cases.
Michigan's Legal Stance on College Expenses
Unlike some states that have specific statutes mandating parents to contribute to college costs, Michigan law does not explicitly require parents to pay for their child's higher education. Child support obligations typically end when a child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, whichever is later, but not beyond 19 and a half years of age. However, there are circumstances under which the issue of college expenses can be legally addressed.
In some instances, parents may reach an agreement independently. These agreements can be incorporated into the final divorce decree and can specify terms regarding the payment of college expenses. Once part of a court order, they are enforceable by law. Without such an agreement, a Michigan court generally will not order a parent to pay college costs.
Case Law Influencing College Expense Decisions
Although statutory law does not mandate these payments, case law does provide some guidance. For example, in the case of Weaver v Giffels, it was determined that a court could not order college expense payments without the consent of both parties. Therefore, if one parent does not agree to contribute voluntarily and no prior agreement is made, they cannot be forced to do so.
Factors Considered in Voluntary Agreements
When parents opt to include college expenses in their child support arrangements, several factors may influence their agreement. These can include:
- The financial resources of both parents
- The child's own financial resources, including savings or scholarships
- The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not dissolved
- The child's academic performance
For example, if a child has received a full scholarship to attend university, the parents' contributions might be adjusted accordingly.
Modification of Support Orders
In cases where circumstances change significantly after a divorce decree is finalized — such as changes in parental income or unexpected scholarships — either parent may petition the court for a modification of the existing support order. The court will then review the current situation and make a determination based on the best interests of the child.
In summary, while Michigan does not explicitly require divorced parents to pay for their children's college expenses post-minority through statutory law, it is possible for such expenses to be included in a divorce settlement if both parties agree. It is advisable for parents to consult with family law attorneys who can provide guidance based on their unique circumstances and assist in drafting agreements that meet legal standards and protect all parties' interests.