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Will child support help pay for my child’s college education?

Child support payments cover many expenses, from the child’s everyday needs to medical care. However, child support does not last forever. North Carolina law states that a parent’s obligation to pay child support ends when the child turns 18. There are a few exceptions, such as if the child is still in secondary school, but child support generally ends when children become legal adults.

However, many families wonder about college – and how they will handle the expenses.

Child support may end, but education often continues

Attending college after graduating high school is a common decision for many students. Some of the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics states that:

Many families will send off their children to college, and this new educational journey is often expensive. It can be a challenge for children to pay for college on their own. That is why many parents choose to help pay for their child’s higher education.

The question is: how do unmarried parents approach paying for college?

Are college expenses included in child support?

As mentioned above, child support generally ends when a child turns 18. State law does not require college expenses to be included in child support payments.

However, unmarried parents can establish their own arrangement to help pay for their child’s education if they wish. There are a few ways parents can do this, including:

  • Modifying the terms of support or child custody agreements before their child goes to college to include an obligation to pay college expenses
  • Working with their attorneys to create an agreement that works best for both parents to help aid their child financially

Unmarried parents could also have an informal arrangement to help pay for college, but it might help to establish a formal agreement to ensure both parents fulfill the obligations they agreed to.

Regardless of the strategy, it often helps if parents are proactive. This is not only critical to help children when they apply for financial aid, but also to help both parents feel comfortable as they move forward into this chapter of their lives.