As a parent, your financial obligation does not end once your child turns 18 — at least, not in Pennsylvania. If your teen decides to pursue post-secondary education, both you and his or her other parent have a legal obligation to contribute as much as you feasibly can financially.
If you are unsure about the validity of this statement, consider what Pennsylvania law has to say. Title 23 § 4327. Post-secondary educational costs explains the General Rule pertaining to post-secondary education costs for divorced parents.
The General Rule
Per PA’s General Rule, the courts may use their discretion to order one or both parents who are divorced, separated or unmarried to pay an equitable amount of education costs for children over the age of 18. The courts may order this regardless of whether a court order is already in place, and regardless of if the child has already reached the age of majority. The courts maintain this stance because they view post-secondary educational costs as a shared responsibility between both parents.
The Pennsylvania General Assembly does stipulate that post-secondary education costs are not as exacting a requirement as the responsibility for both parents to provide food, shelter and clothing for children who are unable to provide for themselves. Before ordering one or both parents to pay for college or trade school, the courts will ensure the child or student has made a concerted effort to apply not only for school but also for grants, scholarships and work-study assistance. Moreover, the courts will consider each parent’s ability to pay for college expenses by assessing the financial resources of both parents, among other factors.
Post-secondary education can set your child up for success. However, it is important first to consider the tuition costs and, just as importantly, who will pay before encouraging your child to enroll.