No. A court cannot order a parent to pay for college. However, if an agreement is made, the court will enforce the agreement.
Child support and educational expenses. The obligation to pay for college and education expenses is provided in MCL 552.452(1) of the Family Support Act. Paragraph (1) provides that support may include expenses of:
“. . . medical, dental, and other health care, child care, and education, necessary medical expenses incurred in connection with the mother’s pregnancy or the birth of the child, and the expense of genetic testing.”
The same statute further provides that the obligation to provide child support ends when a child reaches the age of 18:
“The order shall state in separate paragraphs the amount of support for the petitioner until the further order of the court, and the amount of support for each child until each child reaches 18 years of age or until the further order of the court.”
Therefore, it would appear that the answer to the question who pays for college in a Michigan divorce is that there is no obligation to support a child after the age of 18.
However, there are certain circumstances where the obligation to pay child support can extend beyond a child’s 18th birthday. These circumstances are set forth in MCL 552.605b which provides that a court may order child support after the child reaches the age of 18 if:
The child is regularly attending high school on a full-time basis but in no case after the child reaches 19 years and 6 months.
To add an
exclamation point to the conclusion that there is no legal authority for a
court to order a parent to pay for college in a Michigan divorce, we look to MCL
552.17a which defines the jurisdiction of a court in a Michigan
divorce. The statute providing that a court has jurisdiction relative to
the minor children until each child has attained the age of 18 and jurisdiction
regarding child support consistent with the MCL 552.605b.
Agreements to pay for college in a Michigan
a court cannot order a parent to contribute pay for college in a Michigan does
not mean you cannot agree to do so. However, if an agreement is made to
pay for college in a Michigan divorce, it will be enforced.
In Gibson v. Gibson,110, Mich. App 666 (1981), the parties reached an agreement in their Judgment of Divorce to allow the trial court the right to determine the amount to pay for college expenses. The Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the agreement over the objection of one parent (and even the trial judge who thought children should pay their own way through school).
v. Oviatt, 43 Mich. App. 628 (1972), the
Michigan Court of Appeals were faced with the authority of a trial judge to
hold a party in contempt of court for failing to pay for college expenses the
parties agreed upon in their divorce settlement. The Michigan Court of
Appeals upheld the agreement and determined since the agreement was entered
during the minority of the child it was enforceable in contempt proceedings.
v. Silver, Michigan Court of Appeals Docket
No. 250275 (unpublished), the an unpublished opinion entitled Top v. Silver
(Docket No. 250275) the parties divorce judgment included an agreement for the
husband to provide four years of college tuition for each of the parties
children provided they maintained at least 2.0 grade point average at a
nationally accredited college or university. The wife filed a motion to
enforce and the husband filed a motion to modify the agreement. The trial
court determined that the agreement was child support and modified the
agreement as to future college expenses. The husband appealed (apparently not
wanting to pay anything) and the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the
It may be possible to structure an agreement to pay for college as a
property settlement and therefore non-modifiable.
Can a court order a parent to pay for college
in a Michigan divorce?
is only if you agree to do so.