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Alabama ruling on tuition expenses favors non-custodial parents

Raising a child involves many varied expenses, some of which are expected and others that are completely unforeseen. The costs associated with child-rearing can be financially draining on families of all types and incomes, but many single parents often face a disproportionate burden if the other parent is not around or does not contribute monetarily. When courts resolve child support issues, they often take into account many different factors, including educational costs like tuition for private school or college.

The Alabama Supreme Court recently heard a case involving whether non-custodial parents should be required to pay for their children’s college tuition. The long-standing decision on this issue dated back to 1989 and required non-custodial parents to contribute to tuition costs and educational expenses for children aged 19 and older who were not able to support themselves. This latest case reverses that ruling, eliminating the legal requirement to pay some of those educational expenses and holding that any contributions toward a child’s higher education must be voluntary.

Although the case discussed above is not directly related to a child support determination, it illustrates the complexity involved in determining who will pay for certain expenses of a child. Child support is frequently a contentious issue among parents who are separated or divorced. While most parents want to contribute toward the costs of raising their children and want to ensure that the child’s needs are met, some parents feel financially unable to contribute what the other parent asks. In other situations, one parent may disagree with the parenting decisions or choices of the other parent that are resulting in some of the expenses.

In Alabama, courts use a specific formula and particular child support guidelines in order to determine the amount parents should pay, The courts consider factors like the parents’ incomes, the costs of childcare and health insurance, and other expenses deemed necessary by the state. In order to have the best chance of achieving a mutually agreeable child support arrangement, an attorney can assist parents in identifying key expenses and negotiating the primary issues relating to the how the child will be raised.

Source:, “Court reverses portion of Alabama divorce law regarding paying for college,” Oct. 15, 2013