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Who Pays for Your Child’s Private Education After a Divorce?


Following a divorce, many costs associated with raising children may be disputed by former spouses. One of these is the cost of a private education for the child or children. Divorced parents often dispute this because one parent may feel that this is a necessity, and therefore the other parent should pay for it. The other parent may be refusing to pay for it because they believe a public-school education would be sufficient.

What Are Each Parent’s Legal Responsibilities?

When going through a divorce, it is common for things to become emotional, tense, and even combative. However, when children are involved, the parents must prioritize their children’s best interests. The divorce will affect these interests in a variety of ways – from where they will be living to the education they receive.

On a legal level, each parent will have specific responsibilities to ensure the welfare of their children. In Colorado, the law states that both parents share the cost of education and childcare after a divorce. As part of the divorce proceedings, the judge can make decisions to ensure the protection of the children’s wellbeing. They will also determine the financial level of responsibility of each parent.

How Are These Responsibilities Determined?

During a divorce, the court will determine which parent should pay to support the wellbeing of the child, and how much they will pay. The underlying premise is to ensure that the child has the same standard of living and level of welfare that they had before the dissolution of the marriage.

To do this they will consider several factors.

  • The financial standing of both parents including income, savings and investments
  • The child’s perceived standard of living had the marriage not ended in divorce
  • Financial aid or scholarships relevant to the child’s education (if applicable)
  • The child’s academic performance

The Payment of Private Education

When the judge determines what needs to happen (and who needs to pay) in order to look after the wellbeing of a child or children affected by a divorce, one of the aspects they consider will be education. Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-115 states that parents must share the cost of private elementary or secondary school to meet the particular educational needs of the child. Although the parents must share this cost, the statute mandates that their adjusted gross income determines the split.

The statute does not define particular educational needs, so this point is ultimately open to interpretation by the court. According to Colorado case law, it is often determined that child support should include private and secondary education if the child is currently attending private school. If that is the case, the court will generally mandate that this arrangement continues. As such, they will make sure that one of the parties pays the private education fees. It is also common that the court will order the allocation of money for the child’s college education.

Legal Precedence

Because Colorado statutes provide limited information on this subject, the courts make these determinations based largely on case law. A number of cases contribute to legal precedence on the payment of private education after a divorce.

In Drury v. Racer, 17 SW 3d 608 (Mo. App. E.D. 2000) the court considered a previous ruling to increase the father’s child support obligation to include private education costs. The court ruled that “a child’s educational need is a relevant factor that the trial court may consider in awarding child support.” The court further stated that “the decision to increase child support that requires noncustodial parent to pay a portion of private school tuition rests within the sound discretion of the trial court.”

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