With a recent Alabama Supreme Court decision, children of divorced parents must now rely on voluntary parental support from non-custodial parents to help pay for college expenses.
"Instead of dealing with the constitutional question, they dealt with a statutory question and said it wasn't the Court's place to say what the law is, our place is to interpret and say what the law is, not tell them was the law should be," explains Auburn Attorney, Stephanie Pollard.
A decision made in 1989 determined that non-custodial parents should help pay the cost of some educational expenses for children who were at least 19-years-old.
In 2010, after a divorced father asked his ex-wife to help finance their son's college education, a court ordered the woman to pay 25 percent of the education costs. The decision was upheld by the Court of Civil Appeals before it was heard, and overruled on October 4 of this year, by the state Supreme Court.
"The statute says, 'support your child.' That means to age 19. So anything that orders beyond that is incorrect, and against Alabama Law, so therefore, the ruling in courts cannot order parents to pay college expenses for their children after the age of 19," says Pollard.
With a high divorce rate in the United States, and with Alabama having the third highest divorce rate in the nation, it is expected that a large percentage of students at Alabama universities such as Auburn may be impacted by this law.
"A lot of kids at Auburn have help from their parents, and if you figure statistically that 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, you can apply that to almost half of Auburn's campus that may or may not have divorced parents," explains Pollard.
The Alabama legislature has the opportunity to modify the law, making it more constitutional in the eyes of the court, but Pollard doesn't think it will change.
"If a mother and a father want to agree to contribute toward their child's college expenses, they're more than free to do so, and I think that is wonderful if that's what they agree to do, but at least they have a choice now."
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