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Clarify expectations within your child support agreement

Texas parents are aware that divorced parents arrange for the care of their children through the payment and receipt of child support. When parents divorce, the party who retains primary physical custody usually receives a monthly payment from the other parent, which is meant to help cover the costs associated with raising a child. However, child support agreements can extend beyond the basics of daily care, and can encompass virtually any projected expense that parents agree upon.

One example involves funding for a college education. Often, parents agree within their divorce that each will pay a portion of their child's college tuition and expenses. Those who do so should be careful to draft an agreement that is clear, and which details the expectations that go along with such an offer. One father recently learned that absent such provisions, a court could order payment of staggering tuition expenses.

The case centers on parents who agreed within their divorce settlement to pay for their daughter's law degree. At the time of their divorce, she had just finished her undergraduate degree at Rutgers University, where her father is a professor. He assumed that if she choose to attend law school, she would remain at Rutgers. He asserts that they also agreed that she would begin law school within a year or two after graduation. As it happened, father and daughter had falling out and stopped speaking to one another.

More than two years after attaining her degree, she applied and was accepted to Cornell Law School, where tuition runs around $225,000. When her father balked at this expense and offered to cover a more reasonable $7,500 per year to help with tuition, the matter was brought before a court. The judge ruled that because there were no conditions placed upon the offer to split the cost of the daughter's law degree, the father will be held accountable for that expense. The case serves as a warning to all parents, in Texas or elsewhere, of the need to clearly outline all conditions and expectations within your child support agreement.

Source: nj.com, NJ court orders divorced father to pay half of daughter's pricey law school expenses, Jeff Goldman, March 5, 2014

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