Can the Court order your spouse to pay for private school tuition for your minor child during divorce?
The answer is it depends. The Court will make a decision on a case-by-case basis but there are a few general considerations the Court makes before ordering one party to pay for private school tuition.
In general, the Court will not “get in the way” of a parties’ agreement to pay for private school tuition. If the parties agree, then they can submit their written agreement to Court for the Judge’s signature. Once the Judge signs the agreement, then it will become an enforceable order.
But what happens when one party does not agree to pay?
In that case, the Court must assess the basic monthly Guideline child support obligation as a preliminary consideration. Basic guideline child support is calculated by a computer program called the DissoMaster. Once basic child support is established, the Court can address a party’s request for the payment of private school tuition as a discretionary child support add-on and will look to whether the supporting party can afford a tuition payment in addition to the total support obligation.
Once guideline child support has been calculated, the Court will look at the facts of your specific case. For example, the Court may order the payment of private school tuition if the parties’ minor child is in her senior year of private high school and the Court is satisfied that there are sufficient funds to pay for the tuition after the payment of basic monthly child support is met. On the other hand, the Court may not order the payment of private school tuition if a party cannot afford it or the Court determines it is not in the child’s best interest to attend private school.
It is not uncommon for the marital standard of living to decrease during divorce for the parties and their children. After the parties establish separate residences and formal support is set, the parties may have to adjust and respond to a new financial dynamic that may not include the financial ability to pay for private school.
Although most parents want what is best for their children, and Judges do not usually disrupt the lifestyle they have become accustomed to, parties to a divorce must be mindful of the practical considerations discussed above when asking the Court to make the other party pay for private school tuition.
If you wish to discuss your case, please feel free to contact Zonder Family Law Group at (805) 777-7740. We are settlement minded, Ready for trial!
The following is intended as legal educational insights based on California law, not legal advice. You should consult with an attorney about your particular situation. This post is an attorney-client communication under Rule 1-400 of the Rules of Professional Conduct of the State Bar of California and Business and Professions Code Sections 6157-6159.2.
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