Monday, December 28, 2015

College Support

“A chancery court may adjudge that one or both parents provide the means for a college education for their children." Baier v. Baier, 897 So.2d 202, 205 (¶ 16) (Miss. Ct. App. 2005) (citing Pass v. Pass, 238 Miss. 449, 458, 118 So.2d 769, 773 (1960)). "When the father's financial ability is ample to provide a college education and the child shows an aptitude for such, the court may in its discretion, after hearing, require the father to provide such education." Id. "The parental duty to send a child to college is not absolute, however, but is dependent upon the proof and the circumstances of each case." Id. (citing Hambrick v. Prestwood, 382 So.2d 474, 477 (Miss. 1980)).          

 Should this support be set on a young child?  In Harmon v. Yarbrough, 767 So.2d 1069, 1071 (¶ 6) (Miss. Ct. App. 2000), the Court of Appeals addressed a somewhat similar issue. In reaching its decision, the Harmon court noted that, according to the Mississippi Supreme Court, it is improper to impose an obligation to pay college expenses on a parent in a divorce proceeding until the following showing is made: 

The duty of a father to send a child to college, under the circumstances of this case, is not absolute. It is dependent, not only on the child's aptitude and qualifications for college, but on whether the child's behavior toward, and relationship with the father, makes the child worthy of the additional effort and financial burden that will be placed on him. Sending children to college is expensive and can cause much sacrifice on the part of parents. It cannot ordinarily be demanded, but must be earned by children through  967 So.2d  85  respect for their parents, love, affection and appreciation of parental efforts, none of which are present in this instance.   Id. (quoting Hambrick, 382 So.2d at 477).          

The Harmon court then found that "Since the duty is dependent upon several factors, including the child's suitability for college and his or her relationship with the supporting parent at the time of the expenditures, it would normally be improper to impose that obligation when the child is only three years old." Id.   What is a little strange is that there is some caselaw that appears to indicate this same showing is not needed in the context of a paternity case.  As such, it appears to be easier to get college support for a nonmartial child and during a divorce proceeding. 

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