Is My Ex-spouse Responsible for Paying Our Child’s College Education?

In Utah, the law does not require divorced parents to pay for an adult child’s education. Divorcing parents can agree that one or both parents will fund some or all of a child’s college education, but they cannot—at least as of the date I make this post—force one or both parents to fund an adult child’s college education. Or can they? The policy of the law in the state of Utah is generally (and always has been) that parents have no support obligations to their adult children after they legally emancipate or, if exceptional circumstances dictate, up to the age of 21 years of age (although that policy is being challenged in the Utah Court of Appeals right now, so stay tuned). But I did find this decision of the Utah Court of Appeals from 1987. The case is Eames v. Eames, 735 P.2d 395.

In that case, the trial court awarded the wife alimony in the amount of $450 per month that would continue so long as the parties’ youngest child successfully pursued a full time college education, lived in the family home, remained single, or reached the age of 21 years. Then alimony was reduced to $300.00 per month and would remain so until plaintiff reached the age of 65 years, which point alimony would terminate. The husband appealed that award, but the Court of Appeals found no abuse of the trial court’s discretion in making the alimony award. While the alimony award didn’t expressly claim to fund the parties’ child’s college education, you could see how the argument could reasonably be made that the extra $150 per month was essentially for the child’s benefit, not the wife’s.

The takeaway: where there’s a will to force a divorced parent to pay for at least part of an adult child’s college education, the law of the State of Utah can be exploited interpreted to make it happen.


Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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