Child Support and College Tuition in Texas

Guide to College Tuition Child Support in Texas

Texas extends to cover college expenses. It offers guidance on the legalities of child support agreements, specifically how they apply to funding a child’s education beyond high school.

This article discusses the nuances of Texas Family Code, negotiation strategies for parents, and the enforcement of such agreements. It aims to provide clear information for parents dealing with the complexities of child support as it pertains to college tuition.

Does Child Support Continue Through College?

Raising a child is a lifetime responsibility, including financially supporting their needs. When a couple separates or divorces, child support is one of the most significant issues they encounter. This is a legally binding obligation, not just in Texas, but across the United States, to financially support a child after a divorce or separation.

The principle behind child support is straightforward. However, complexities arise when it comes to specifics like calculating the amount, duration, and scope of support. One area that often stirs up confusion is college expenses. While it’s typically assumed that child support ends when the child becomes a legal adult, the reality isn’t as black and white when it comes to their tertiary education.

This in-depth guide will illuminate the nuances of child support in Texas, particularly focusing on its implications for college tuition. Additionally, we will provide an overview of the options available to parents for sharing this significant cost.

Understanding Child Support Obligations in Texas

Under the Texas Family Code, parents are entrusted with various rights and responsibilities towards their children. Moral and religious upbringing, education, and financial support are among these responsibilities. But what is the timeline for these obligations, specifically for education-related support?

In most situations, the parent’s obligation to provide support for their child in Texas ceases when the child turns eighteen or graduates from high school, whichever happens later. However, there’s a caveat. If child support is to be extended beyond 18, the child must be enrolled in high school as a full-time student.

Navigating College Obligations: A Process of Negotiation

The Texas Family Code might not explicitly address college tuition and expenses, but it doesn’t hinder parents from discussing, negotiating, and contracting supplementary child support obligations either. These additional obligations should be encapsulated in a written agreement and included in the child custody order for them to be enforceable.

The process of drafting such agreements requires careful consideration of several factors:

  • College Tuition: Establishing which parent will shoulder the burden of paying for college tuition.
  • Proportion of Expenses: Identifying the proportion of college expenses each parent will bear.
  • Ancillary Expenses: Clearly stipulating which ancillary expenses will be covered, including room and board, books, allowances, transportation, and other living costs.
  • Conditions for Financial Support: Determining whether the child needs to fulfill specific conditions, such as maintaining a certain GPA or course load.
  • Evaluation of Conditions: Setting a timeline for assessing the child’s GPA or other conditions, such as every semester or annually.
  • College Choice Restrictions: Deciding if there will be limitations on which college the child can attend.
  • Duration of Obligation: Indicating how long the obligation to pay for college will persist, whether it’s a four-year commitment or until the child achieves a graduate-level education.
  • Payment Arrangements: Clarifying whether payments will be made directly to the college, to the child, or to one of the parents.
  • Child’s Obligations: Outlining if the child will bear any responsibilities or obligations concerning their education.

The Importance of Written Agreements in College Support

Guide to College Tuition Child Support in Texas

From a legal standpoint, when representing parents who are asked to finance college, it’s often recommended not to formalize the obligation in the child custody order. This strategy allows the parent the discretion to determine their level of financial commitment when the time arises.

Verbal agreements made during a marriage or outside a written order typically aren’t enforceable in a court of law. Therefore, retaining flexibility and not tying themselves to specific obligations gives parents more control over the situation. However, it’s beneficial to negotiate and include the obligations in the written order for the parent seeking financial assistance for college.

When a spouse violates a court order regarding the payment of college expenses, the non-breaching party can bring a breach of contract claim to court. This emphasizes the need to carefully draft the agreement to avoid ambiguity or lack of specificity.

A notable case that underscores the importance of a meticulously drafted agreement is Bartlett v. Bartlett, 465 S.W.3d 745 (Tex. App. – Houston [14th Dist.] 2015, no pet.). The parents had agreed in their final decree of divorce that the father would pay 100% of the children’s college educational expenses. The agreement also stipulated that the son must be a full-time student and maintain a minimum GPA of C or its equivalent.

However, the father stopped making payments when the son’s GPA fell below a C in one semester. This action led to a lawsuit for breach of contract, and the court ruled in favor of the mother. The father was ordered to reimburse the mother for the expenses she had paid, and she was awarded $15,000 in addition to attorney’s fees.

Considering Capped Obligations for College Costs

Many parents express concern over committing to uncapped obligations for college costs due to the unpredictability of future expenses. To mitigate this, it’s wise to negotiate a lump sum payment per semester for a predetermined number of semesters. Another approach could be investing funds that become available when the child reaches college age. These strategies provide more certainty and allow parents to plan ahead.

Balancing Child Support and College Tuition in Divorce Proceedings

The issues of child support and college tuition can be complex and contentious during divorce proceedings. Texas law does not directly address college expenses in relation to child support, but it does offer parents the liberty to negotiate and include extra obligations in the child custody order.

A well-drafted written agreement clearly delineating each parent’s responsibilities and expectations is crucial for enforceability. By understanding their rights and exploring the options available to them, parents can make informed decisions that prioritize their child’s education and future.

If you need further guidance on this topic, we welcome you to schedule an appointment with one of the experienced family law attorneys at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC.

Modification of Child Support Orders

Guide to College Tuition Child Support in Texas

Child support orders can be modified under certain circumstances in Texas. If there are changes in income, medical needs, or educational expenses, parents can request a modification of the child support order. This process requires meeting specific requirements and following the appropriate legal procedures to ensure a fair adjustment that reflects the changing circumstances.

Non-Payment of Child Support

When a parent fails to fulfill their child support obligations, legal consequences and remedies are available. The consequences may include wage garnishment, contempt of court charges, or enforcement actions by the Texas Attorney General’s Office. These measures ensure that child support payments are made as ordered by the court, providing necessary support for the child’s upbringing.

Child Support Calculations

Child support calculations in Texas involve various methods, such as the percentage of income model or the income shares model. These calculations consider factors like the parents’ income, the number of children involved, and specific child-related expenses. Understanding the calculation methods and the factors influencing the final amount is crucial for paying and receiving parents.

Custody and Visitation Arrangements

Different types of custody arrangements exist in Texas, such as joint custody, sole custody, or shared parenting. These arrangements can impact child support obligations and college tuition responsibilities. Understanding the implications of various custody arrangements is crucial for parents navigating child support and college expenses.

Financial Aid Options for College

Regarding college expenses, various financial aid options are available to college-bound students in Texas. These options include scholarships, grants, student loans, and other forms of financial assistance. Exploring these funding sources can help supplement child support obligations for college expenses and alleviate the financial burden on parents and students.

Financial Aid Option



Merit-based or need-based awards that provide funds for college tuition. Many organizations and institutions offer scholarships in Texas.


Financial aid that does not need to be repaid. Grants are typically awarded based on financial need and can come from federal or state programs.

Student Loans

Borrowed funds that must be repaid with interest. Students can explore federal loans or private loans from banks and lending institutions.

Work-Study Programs

On-campus or off-campus part-time job opportunities that help students earn money to cover educational expenses.

Tuition Assistance Programs

State-funded programs that offer financial aid specifically for Texas residents. Eligibility criteria and award amounts may vary.

Education Savings Accounts

Tax-advantaged savings accounts, such as 529 plans or Coverdell Education Savings Accounts, that help families save for college expenses.

Tax Implications of Child Support

Understanding the tax treatment of child support payments is essential for both paying and receiving parents. In general, according to current tax laws, child support payments are not tax-deductible for the paying parent, nor are they considered taxable income for the receiving parent. Being aware of these tax implications can help parents plan their finances more effectively.

Interstate Child Support Issues

Guide to College Tuition Child Support in Texas

Interstate child support cases involve additional challenges and legal considerations. When parents reside in different states, enforcing child support orders and addressing jurisdictional issues can become complex. The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) provides guidelines for resolving these challenges and ensuring the appropriate enforcement of child support obligations across state lines.

Post-Secondary Education Agreements

Post-secondary education agreements offer an alternative approach to addressing college tuition obligations. These agreements can be established between parents or through trust funds, outlining financial responsibilities and expectations regarding higher education. Exploring these agreements and understanding their advantages and limitations can help ensure continued financial support for a child’s college education.

College Savings Plans

College savings plans, such as 529 plans, Coverdell Education Savings Accounts, or UTMA/UGMA accounts, provide a means of preparing for college expenses in addition to child support. These savings vehicles allow parents to set aside funds specifically for their child’s education, helping to alleviate the financial burden when the time comes for college tuition payments.

Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution

Mediation and alternative dispute resolution methods offer benefits for resolving child support and college tuition disputes outside of court. These methods provide a platform for open communication, negotiation, and finding mutually agreeable solutions. Mediators play a crucial role in facilitating productive discussions and helping parents reach fair resolutions that prioritize the child’s best interests.

In conclusion, navigating child support and college expenses can be complex. Understanding the legal standards, modification processes, enforcement agencies, and financial considerations related to child support is crucial for both paying and receiving parents.

By exploring available resources, considering financial aid options, and engaging in effective communication, parents can make informed decisions that prioritize their child’s education and future.

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  1. Paying for college after a divorce
  2. What do I do if I have overpaid child support in Texas?
  3. Texas Child Support Appeals
  4. In Texas are Child Support and Visitation Connected?
  5. Why Ignoring Child Support Obligations is a Bad Idea in Texas
  6. Texas Child Support – Trust and Annuities
  7. Special Needs Children in Texas Child Support Cases
  8. How to get above guideline child support.
  9. Handling a child support case as the non custodial parent, Part Five
  10. Modifying your divorce decree in Texas
  11. How to handle child support as the non custodial parent, Part Three
  12. What do I do if I have overpaid child support in Texas?
  13. Can my Texas Driver’s License Be Suspended for Not paying Child Support?
  14. What you should know about being an incarcerated parent in Texas

FAQs – Child Support in Texas

Do you have to pay child support in Texas after 18?

In Texas, child support typically ends when the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. However, there are certain circumstances where child support may continue beyond the age of 18, such as if the child has a disability or if the parents have agreed to extend child support.

Do you have to pay child support for college in Texas?

Generally, child support in Texas does not include payment for college expenses. However, parents can reach agreements regarding college support as part of their divorce settlement or through a separate agreement. It’s advisable to consult with a family law attorney to understand your rights and options regarding college support.

What is the maximum child support in Texas?

In Texas, the maximum amount of child support is based on a percentage of the obligor’s (paying parent) income and the number of children being supported. As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, the maximum percentage for child support is 40% of the obligor’s net resources for five or more children. However, it’s important to consult with an attorney as child support guidelines and maximums may change over time.

Does Medicaid go after the father for child support in Texas?

Medicaid, which provides healthcare assistance for low-income individuals and families, may seek reimbursement for medical expenses paid on behalf of a child from the child’s parents. This includes the child’s father. However, the specific circumstances and requirements may vary, so it’s recommended to consult with an attorney or contact the Texas Health and Human Services Commission for more information.

How do I stop paying child support after 18 in Texas?

In Texas, child support typically ends when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. If you believe your child support obligation should end, you can file a motion with the court to terminate the child support order. It’s crucial to consult with an attorney to understand the legal process and requirements for stopping child support.

At what age does child support stop in Texas?

In Texas, child support generally ends when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. However, if the child has a disability or the parents have agreed to extend child support, it may continue beyond these milestones. It’s recommended to consult with an attorney to understand the specific circumstances that may affect the duration of child support.

Can child support be extended through college in Texas?

In Texas, child support is typically not extended through college unless the parents have agreed to provide additional support for educational expenses as part of their divorce settlement or through a separate agreement. College support is not automatic and depends on the specific terms agreed upon by the parents. It’s advisable to consult with a family law attorney to understand your rights and options regarding college support.

Does college tuition count as support?

In Texas, college tuition expenses are generally not included as part of regular child support obligations unless the parents have agreed to provide additional support for educational expenses. It’s important to review your specific situation and any existing agreements. Consult with a family law attorney to understand the extent of your financial responsibilities for college tuition.

Does child support end automatically in Texas?

No, child support does not end automatically in Texas. The paying parent needs to request a modification or termination of the child support order through the court. It’s important to follow the legal process and obtain a court order to officially end child support obligations in Texas.