Divorce Laws in California Regarding Education & Children

By Beverly Bird

In the heat of divorce, issues of child custody and support are at the forefront of your mind. They must be resolved before you and your spouse can officially part ways, but your children have educational needs, too. These should be addressed in the divorce agreement as well, but it's not mandatory in California. You and your spouse can negotiate post-divorce terms for your children's education in a marital settlement agreement, or you can ask the court to decide these terms at trial. If you don't, the issue can be easily overlooked.

California Divorce

California's divorce laws are relatively streamlined. It's a no-fault state, so you and your spouse don't have to cast blame to obtain a divorce. After you file your documents to begin the divorce process, the state imposes a six-month waiting period before the court will finalize the divorce. You can use this time to negotiate a marital settlement agreement, but even if you complete and sign the agreement within just a few months, the court won't order a final decree until six months have passed. This gives you a little time to make sure you've covered all issues in your agreement, including your children's education.

Grade School

Child support does not cover educational costs in California. State law considers costs for school extra or discretionary expenses. If the parties can't reach a marital settlement agreement, the judge decides costs for schooling on a case by case basis because there's no statutory rule. If you want your child support order to cover the costs of private grade school, you'll have to convince the judge that private school is necessary and in your child's best interests. For example, if your child attends private school because of special needs, a judge isn't likely to pull her out and place her in a public school because this would not be in her best interests. But a judge probably won't make financial provisions for your child to begin attending private school for the first time after your divorce.

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High School

If your child is a teenager at the time of your divorce and a year or two away from graduating from a private high school you and your spouse have traditionally paid for during the marriage, a judge might be reluctant to uproot her and force her to change schools. But regardless of whether your child attends private or public school, child support continues in California until she graduates from high school. The state's age of majority is 18 and child support will end on your child's 18th birthday if she has already graduated high school. Otherwise, it continues until graduation or until she turns 19, whichever happens first.

College

Unlike some states, California has no statutory provisions for college costs. Judges can't order child support to continue through your child's college years and they can't order you or your spouse to pay for post-secondary education expenses. You can include these provisions in a marital settlement agreement, however, and if you do, the court will uphold them. Because no state laws govern post-secondary education expenses, you can get creative -- your agreement can be tailor-made to your family's particular needs and incomes.

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Washington State Child Support Laws for Children Over the Age of 18 Years
 

References

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Divorce Attorney Consultation Questions

With a few exceptions, most divorce lawyers can adequately get the job done. The vast majority of divorces never go to trial; spouses generally come to terms regarding a settlement with the help of their attorneys. A lawyer’s courtroom savvy and expertise may not be as important as her ability to negotiate and to communicate with you. Before you consult with anyone, make sure she specializes in family law. Then ask questions to determine whether she’s right for you and your particular case.

Child Support Arrearage Laws for Oregon

In 2009, Oregon began taking a notably tough stance against parents who willfully refuse to pay child support; the Department of Justice arrested 21 non-custodial parents and subsequently collected more than $530,000 for their families. If you owe child support arrearages, although incarceration is usually Oregon's last resort to convince you to pay up, it can happen. Judgments for child support in this state are enforceable for 35 years after the date of your divorce decree, if your decree includes provisions for child support. Otherwise, the time begins running from the date of your support order.

Divorce & Changes in Circumstance in Massachusetts

Ideally, if a significant change occurs in your life, it will happen while you are in mid-divorce, so your eventual decree can adequately address it. This isn't usually the case, and Massachusetts allows spouses to modify the terms of their decrees after divorce to accommodate changes. However, unless you and your spouse agree to a modification by consent, Massachusetts judges require “substantial and material” changes in circumstance before they’ll issue a modification order. “Substantial” means the change must be big; “material” means it must directly relate to the provision you want to change.

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