Child Support During College
Divorces are often as much about financial planning as they are about emotions. While both parents are likely anxious to begin their new life, there is also the issue of what is in the best interests of their children and their future. Alternatively, you may not have ever been married to your child’s other parent, but these are still things that you’ll need to consider for the financial welfare of your children.
When you pay or receive child support, it is intended to defray the costs of that child’s basic needs. Child support figures are either determined by statute or mutual agreement between the two parents. These payments can impact both your short and long-term decisions for many years into the future. A common question asked by parents is whether or not child support will continue during college.
Child Support During College in South Carolina
Whether or not a parent should be required to pay child support during college in South Carolina is a hotly contested issue. Laws and rules aside, some believe that adult children should be responsible for paying their own expenses while going to school. Other parents feel that they should help assume this financial burden to give their children the best chance for success.
So, what does South Carolina law say about this issue? Unless otherwise agreed upon in advance, a parent’s responsibility to provide for child support often ends upon the latter of when the child graduates from high school or turns 18.
Parents often come to an agreement years in advance as far as continuing to pay child support while a child is in college, or how college-related expenses will be shared. There may be certain parameters to the agreement such as being registered as a full-time student. Parents may also have an agreement about monthly contributions for a college savings fund, which could also help pay living expenses during school.
If one of these agreements is not in place, a parent can petition the South Carolina family law court to seek college support. The court has the discretion to grant this petition if certain conditions are satisfied, including:
- The child would benefit from a college education;
- The child has demonstrated that they can earn satisfactory grades;
- The child would not be able to attend school without the support; and
- The other parent has the financial means to help pay for the college education.
Before approving such a request, the court will also review other means of financial support available such as loans, grants, and the child’s own ability to earn income during the school year or over vacation periods. The court requires that the child take necessary means to minimize their college expenses before they seek assistance from a parent through the family law court. (Hughes v. Hughes. 280 S.C. 388, 390-391 (Ct. App. 1984)). That is why the timing of a college support action is so important—the child must already know the approximate expenses he or she anticipates for college and also know what kind of financial aid to which he or she is entitled.
What is Emancipation?
Most child support in South Carolina terminates either at the age of 18 or when the child graduates from high school, whichever comes later. There are exceptions, however. One involves emancipation where a child gets married before turning 18, or moves out of their parent’s home before turning 18 and is financially self-sufficient. If a child does meet the criteria of being emancipated, the parent paying child support will still need to petition the court to allow those payments to stop due to the child’s emancipation
Other Child Support Matters
Just because a child meets the age requirement for discontinuing child support, that doesn’t necessarily mean child support ends. For example, when a child has a physical or mental handicap requiring ongoing care from a custodial parent, the family court has the discretion to continue child support payments indefinitely. Unlike some states that place a limit of 21 years of age on these payments, there is no such limit in South Carolina.
Do You Need a South Carolina Child Support Attorney?
If you have child support questions that concern a child going into college or any other family law matter, the experienced South Carolina child support attorneys at The Cate Law Firm are happy to review your case and discuss your options.
Our compassionate and dedicated family law attorneys have experience handling all manner of child support matters and will help protect your legal and financial interests. Contact our Spartanburg office now at 864-585-4226 or reach out to us online to schedule a consultation.