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Some Alabama parents no longer responsible for kids’ college

Alabama parents understand that the cost of raising a child can be very high. This is true not only for everyday expenses, but for additional expenses such as the costs of sending a child to college. While these expenses are hard enough to meet under regular circumstances, the situation can become even more complicated when child support issues become involved.

Typically, the costs of education are addressed in a divorce proceeding, similar to other costs incurred in raising a child. While parents can agree on anything they like in terms of having a noncustodial parent pay the costs of college for the child, when parents do not enter into such an agreement, the responsibility of the noncustodial parent to pay for college varies according to state law.

In Alabama, the state Supreme Court recently handed down a ruling that reversed a 24-year-old precedent in this area of the law. The case came to the Court after a mother appealed a decision that required her to help pay for her child’s college expenses.

On appeal, the court held, by a 6-2 ruling, that a judge may not require a non-custodial parent to pay the costs of college for children who are over the age of 19. This was a reversal of previous precedent, which had allowed such costs to be imposed on noncustodial parents, similar to other child support costs.

However, despite the reversal, the ruling only applies to future cases. Accordingly, if a court order is already in place that requires a noncustodial parent to pay college costs, that child support order would not be affected by the recent ruling.

Source: WTOK, “Alabama Supreme Court issues major divorce ruling,” Oct. 4, 2013