High school graduation is an exciting time full of celebrations and ceremonies. As a parent, it’s a moment of pride as you watch your child prepare for his or her upcoming college journey.  

While the transition to college is exciting, it can also be very expensive. If you’re divorced, you might be grappling with which and/or how much each parent will contribute to your child’s higher education.   

In most cases, Hawaii law requires both parents to provide financial support for their children (including for education) until they become an adult. After the child graduates from high school and turns 18, the court may also obligate parents to continue to pay child support until they graduate from college or turn 23, as long as they are enrolled full-time in an accredited college, university, or vocational program.   

If you were divorced when your child was very young, either or both of your financial situations may have changed drastically necessitating a review of how much each parent should contribute. If you need to file a legal motion to change a previous decision or establish a post-high school educational cost arrangement, be sure to do so when your child is a junior, if not sooner. Waiting longer puts you at risk of not having enough time for a court to decide before graduation.   

Here are some additional considerations when it comes to higher education costs for the children of divorced parents:   

  • Be sure to define “higher education costs.” For example, your former spouse may believe these costs should include tuition only but there are other costs to consider, including books, room, and board, and even travel to Hawaii and back from the mainland if they attend school out-of-state.   
  • How much does each parent earn? If one parent makes significantly more than the other, a judge may decide that each parent should pay a percentage of the child’s higher education expenses based on their income.   
  • If you don’t know what college your child will be attending, consider adding a legal provision that you and your former spouse together will contribute at least as much as Hawaii state tuition.   

Giving yourself ample time to address these issues will ensure a smoother college transition for the recent high school graduate and you!   

Seth Harris, a senior associate at the PMK family law division, is available to assist you with higher education financing concerns or any other family law needs. Contact him at Family@HawaiiLegal.com.