Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Children in Divorce

By: Carole L. Chiamp

Special Children: Are They Getting All They Need After Divorce?


In a divorce we are often asked if a spouse can be ordered to pay for college education for the couple’s children. The answer in Michigan is no. However, parents can agree to “contribute” toward college costs and be bound. There is not one answer. But questions to ask include:

  • Do college costs include tuition, room, board and books?
  • Who chooses the college or university?
  • How about clothing, food, gasoline?
  • Should the expenses be capped?
  • How long does the child have to finish school?
  • Does the child have to maintain a full-time schedule and achieve a certain grade point average?
  • Should the parties designate a certain asset for the payment?
  • Add to it after divorce?

Handicapped or Special Needs Children

What happens to a child with special needs if that child is likely to be handicapped in adulthood? Issues will arise which may be different, based on whether the child is under age 18 or over that age at the time of divorce. Each state must deal with division of uninsured medical costs between parents. In Michigan that is usually assigned in a pro rata fashion based on their incomes. Sometimes there are needs which do not fall into the medical category, such as equipment or classes. Check with your attorney regarding these issues. Unfortunately in some instances the child will need assistance into adulthood. Michigan has decided that a parent may not be forced to pay for the child’s special needs after age 18. Parties can agree to set aside funds for a special needs child after the age of majority but that issue must be addressed in negotiating the divorce terms.

Gifted and Especially Talented Children

Some children have an extra-ordinary gift of intelligence. Some have athletic, musical or other talents. Judges have wide discretion in determining what parents may be ordered to pay in the development of these children’s talents. Rather than having a judge decide, parents may want to identify in general terms the types of programs they are willing to financially support and put that in writing. It may not be sufficient to say that the parties will share the cost of “ice skating lessons”, for example. Couples should decide who will cover the costs and sharing of transportation to and from lessons, how many lessons are to be paid for, is the cost of ice skating camps and equipment included? Another serious question may also arise: will ice skating supersede parenting-time arrangements?

For answers to your specific questions, contact us.

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