Fox Family Lawyers
Cynthia Moseley Fox
Attorney at Law
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Clayton, Missouri 63105
(St. Louis)

Readers Claim The State Has No Right To Require Parent To Pay For Child’s College Education

No topic has drawn as much response as has Senate Bill No. 25. The bill, which as of this writing remains unsigned on Governor Blunt’s desk, and which will pass into law automatically on July 15th if the governor does not veto it, reworks of much of the state’s domestic relations code.


This column’s focus has been a provision lowering from age 22 to 21, the last date by which a divorced parent, with the financial resources to do so, can be obligated to pay for their child’s college education.


When I first wrote about SB 25, the emails I received all objected to lowering the termination age. And, all were from women.


Most recently, I received my first two emails from men on the subject, and both questioned the state’s right to compel parents to pay for their child’s college expenses.


“James” wrote:


“Do you believe in the ‘rule of law’? Married parents are NOT required by law to pay college expenses. Why should divorced parents be treated differently?”


Another gentleman, classifying himself as a “20 year veteran men’s/father’s rights activist”, wrote:


“I’m curious by what authority the state has any right to establish a child support order beyond a child reaching the age of majority, much less one that is contingent upon higher education. As I review the case law….the state has no such authority and the wishes of a fit parent should take precedence”


Later, the writer adds: “To force a father to pay for his child’s education in women’s studies is simply an outrage. You may think it appropriate education, but I don’t and as a ‘fit parent’ have the right to determine my child’s best interest.”


I want to thank these readers for taking the time to write. But, I think they misunderstand the statute and how it’s applied. I have never seen any judge countermand a parental decision on the education of their child when both parents are in agreement on what is best for their child. I have witnessed judges standing aside when parents have agreed to pay for that education as well as when they have jointly decided not to pay.


Family court judges are reluctant to interfere in any reasonable settling of the differences between husband and wife so long as it isn’t patently unfair to the parties or their children. The problem occurs when the parents are unable to agree, and, importantly, are now divorced and subject to the jurisdiction of the court.


In our society, the “rule of law” compels us to rely on the courts to settle our differences fairly and in accordance with the law when we unable to do so among ourselves. Divorce is one such situation. If one spouse insists that the family home, or the family schnauzer, be awarded to him or her, and the other spouse objects, it’s the court’s obligation to resolve that difference.


Similarly, if one parent in a well-to-do family believes the parents should pay for their child’s education, but the other does not, then it’s the court that resolves this difference. No one parent or point of view trumps the other.


Of course, my most recent correspondents could rightly object that the court, and the law, has a strong bias that favors educating a child and having the parent that can afford it, foot the bill.


So, if you are a parent that believes differently, I offer this advice: One, hope that you married someone that agrees with you. Two, if you haven’t, work out this difference peaceably with your other half so the issue doesn’t land in court. And, lastly, take your beef to the legislature and try to convince them that compelling parents to pay for their child’s education is not in the state’s interest.