As spring approaches and the children of divorced parents begin to receive their college acceptance letters I am frequently asked how to calculate
child support credits if a parent will also be contributing to room and board expenses.
The easiest example to answer the question is when there is only one child being supported and there are no loans or scholarships utilized for college expenses. In that case the non-custodial parent will get a credit on a dollar for dollar basis for the amount paid for room and board by that parent during the months the child is living away from home. So if a parent pays 50% of room and board expenses of $12,000 that parent receives a $6,000 credit apportioned during the months the child is away at school. If the child is away 8 months then the monthly credit will be $750.00.
If in the above example the student receives a tuition scholarship then the answer may remain the same. However, if the student takes out a loan of $10,000 and college tuition, room and board and other expenses are $20,000, then the parents are only paying half of the room and board and the non-custodial parent is paying half of that reduced amount. The student loan is applied to all of the expenses not just tuition.
When there are two children only one of which is attending college the question may then arise how much of the child support that is being paid is to be apportioned to the child away at school and how much is reserved for the child living at home. Since child support for two children is 25% and for one child is 17% it is possible that a full credit for the non-custodial parent's payment of room and board may significantly reduce the ability of the custodial parent to support the child still at home. This issue can be negotiated in advance in the divorce settlement agreement. Since the court has the discretion how to apply the room and board credit and to decide to what extent it will interfere with the ability to support the other child this question, if determined by the court, I believe will be extremely fact sensitive and be decided based upon the means of the parents to contribute to college expenses and the needs of the child that is still living at home.
If you are facing questions regarding child support credits arising from college expenses, please contact my office so that we can discuss your unique facts.