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In our blog we will try to provide you with general information regarding family law, as well as updates in important cases and statutes dealing with family law in New Hampshire. This is not to be construed as legal advice. Every case is unique and small facts can make a difference.

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Parents and college expenses for their children

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Parents Can Agree Upon Legally Enforceable Agreements For College Expenses

Since the year 2004, the family courts of New Hampshire lacked the legal authority to require one parent to pay for the college related expenses with the only exception being the enforcement of agreements and orders that were established prior to 2004. An NH Supreme Court decision in the Goulart case held that a family court didn’t possess the jurisdiction to legally approve agreements or orders between parents concerning the payment of expenses related to college.

New changes in NH state law now enable family courts to approve agreements that provide for the splitting of educational related expenses that go beyond high school by both or one parent. The new laws went into effect on October 1st, 2013. New statute RSA 461-A:21 specifically states:

“Parents may agree to contribute to their child's college expenses or other educational expenses beyond the completion of high school as part of a stipulated decree, signed by both parents and approved by the court. The agreed-on contribution may be made by one or both parents. The agreement may provide for contributions to an account to save for college, for the use of an asset, or for payment of educational expenses as incurred. Any such agreement shall specify the amount of the contribution, a percentage, or a formula to determine the amount of the contribution.”

The new decree from New Hampshire divorce courts offers sample language for a similar agreement in paragraph 4 of the statute. However, the old court form for parenting decree is currently undergoing the process up being updated to reflect this new legal language, so if two parents would like to include orders for payment of college expenses, then they must adapt their own. Each party must agree upon whether or not the agreement can be modified at a later date if a significant change in circumstances is later incurred. Moreover, the form also necessitates that both parents must attend mediation meetings before the family court will listen to a petition to enforce or modify an agreement for the payment of college expenses.

For New Hampshire parents, the new change in law is excellent news. It enables parents to negotiate their own agreements based upon the mutual desire for their children to invest in higher education. Additionally, a parent can now rely upon such an agreement to be legally enforced should it become necessary. However, at the same time, parents who are unable to agree upon equal footing with married parents cannot legally be forced to pay for college expenses for their children.

For more information on New Hampshire’s new laws regarding agreements and orders for payment of college expenses, please contact one of our NH family law attorneys today. Your initial consultation is free, and our family law lawyers will take the time necessary to ensure that all of your questions are thoroughly answered. We can be contacted via phone, email, or through our website, and we look forward to hearing from you.

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