Private school tuition can be expensive, particularly after divorce. When you add the additional stress of divorce and subtract one income, the burden can become enormous. For these reasons, some parents understandably have questions about paying for private school tuition after divorce, especially how the Family Court determines who should pay for what.
Is paying for private school always required?
Though there's no way to avoid paying child support after a divorce, there is more uncertainty when it comes to private school expenses. Though the Court can require one or both parents to pay private school expenses, this is done on a discretionary basis and not part of the usual formula used to allocate the expenses associated with raising children.
Deviation from the Guidelines
In South Carolina, child support is almost always calculated pursuant to the Child Support Guidelines. However, courts have the discretion to deviate from the Guidelines and from the presumptive level of support offered by the Guidelines in certain circumstances. Private schooling is one of the most common factors that may cause the court to deviate from the child support determined by the guidelines. If the Court chooses to deviate, then it will typically consider the total educational expenses for the children, including private, parochial, or trade schools, which includes tuition and other related costs and fees.
Who has to pay?
If the parents cannot reach an agreement on this issue, the issue of private school tuition after divorce will be decided by a judge. The Court will typically consider a range of factors when choosing what to do about the private school costs. Among the most important of these are the ability of the parents to pay for the schooling, whether the children were attending and settled into the schools prior to the divorce, the religious backgrounds of the parties, any special needs of the children that are being met by the private schools, and whether there were any prior agreements between the parents with regards to the continued attendance of the private schools. If a judge decides that the private school is in the best interest of the child and the parents can afford to foot the bill, then either or both parents can be ordered to pay.