How Can My Child Continue in Private School After My Divorce?

Monday, January 30, 2017 | 1:33 am

Pasadena is home to some of the region’s top private schools. Many families go to great lengths to research, visit and apply for the ideal school; and acceptance into a school of choice is a first big win for a family planning the right educational path for their child. It’s no surprise that when divorce looms one of the top concerns is whether or not a child will be able to continue with private school, and more importantly, who will pay for the tuition?

“Typically the parent who values the private education the most will ask if he or she can request for additional financial support for tuition,” says Don Schweitzer, Partner and Certified Family Law Specialist at the Law Offices of Donald P. Schweitzer. “There are specific child support guidelines to provide for children with special needs, but as it relates to children who do not fall under these provisions, the answer depends heavily on the agreement of both parties.”

According to Schweitzer, in the state of California there is a child support calculation that helps the court determine the amount of child support owed. The calculation factors in variables such as the number of children, time share of the children, filing status, gross wages, mandatory “add-ons” such as health insurance, childcare cost and special needs obligations; and discretionary “add-ons” including costs for education, special needs programs or travel expenses (traveling to/from an out of state parent).

“Once the figure is calculated that’s when your family attorney has the opportunity to negotiate additional fees before the child custody amount is locked in,” said Schweitzer. “If both parties agree to pay for private school and the judge signs it, the amount that includes fees for tuition is enforceable. However, in instances where one party disagrees about continuing with private education, the court will determine the outcome for this ‘add-on’ on a case-by-case basis.”

For example, if the child is in her junior year of a private high school with one year to go, a judge will most likely order the inclusion of private school tuition fees in the child custody agreement. But let’s say the child has entered the first grade at a private school and one parent is seeking additional support to continue at the school. In most cases this request will be denied as the request of the child continuing in private school is viewed as a personal preference versus a necessity to the child’s overall wellbeing.

Similar rules apply for college tuition. In California, child custody support will continue up until the child reaches the age of 18 or 19 and if the child is still in high school. The court cannot order child support beyond this statutory period. However, if both parents agree to child support up to the age of 25 for college tuition, for example, then it will be enforced in court.

The bottom line is while the court may not order additional child support such as private school, college tuition, and extracurricular activities, if both parties agree upon these additional expenses, then a separate agreement can be made which will be enforced by the court.

“In these instances, I would advise parties wanting to enter such agreements, especially non-modifiable agreements, to do so with caution and careful consideration,” Schweitzer explained. “It’s also imperative that the agreement is written and reviewed by both parties’ council because once it is signed, the parties will be bound by the court’s orders.”

Don Schweitzer is founder and partner of The Law Offices of Donald P. Schweitzer, based in Pasadena, Calif. As a Certified Family Law Specialist and former District Attorney, he has extensive background in domestic violence, divorce and child custody issues. Prior to becoming an attorney, Mr. Schweitzer was a Police Officer for approximately 10 years. As a faculty instructor at the National Business Institute, Schweitzer teaches continuing legal education classes on the topic of ethics and advanced courses on family law. He is an active member of the Pasadena Bar Association, the Los Angeles County Bar Association, American Bar Association, and the California State Bar.


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