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Does support continue for an adult child in college?

Child support through college is a complicated issue in the realm of family law. The complexity arises because in most states, including Tennessee, a child 18-years-old or older is a legal adult. At this point in the life of a child of divorce, the noncustodial parent is typically relieved of his or her legal obligation to support the child.

When parents with young children decide to divorce, they do not usually address educational expenses for a child over 18 in their settlement. It is difficult to think that far ahead during such an emotional and turbulent time. However, in Tennessee, that is the best way for divorcing parents to ensure their child receives a college education.

In some states, courts may order a parent to support a child over 18 during college. This support can occur as a part of child support, as an add-on to support or as separate payments made after a child reaches the age of 18. Unfortunately, Tennessee is not one of these states. No case law or statute exists to obligate a parent to continue paying child support beyond the age of maturity.

What can parents do? Parents who are able to cooperate with one another can try to make an agreement between each other to address college expenses. In order to ensure all parties' rights remain protected, a family law attorney can advise and support parents through this process.

If attempts to forge such an agreement fail, it may still be wise to consult with a lawyer. Often, an attorney can offer families alternative solutions to address college tuition and other educational expenses for adult children of divorce.

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures, "Termination of Support-College Support Beyond the Age of Majority," accessed April 26, 2018

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