Dateline: April 2011.

There was once a time when many states had on their child support statutes a provision that allowed them to require non-custodial parents to pay their child’s college tuition, in part or in whole, as part of their child custody cases. This would be in addition to that “standard” child support which would extend into adulthood and well into their children’s 20s.  South Carolina was one of the few remaining states until this year.

In April, South Carolina joins the ranks of others in striking down the family court’s ability to compel divorced and never-married parents to pay for their children’s college tuition and related expenses.  It is undoubtedly a very sound decision in that it directly addresses the 14th amendment issue of equal protection under the law which are violated when family courts impose duties on divorced/never married parents that they cannot, will not, do not impose on married parents.

Divorce and child custody generally wreaks financial hardships on all parties involved.  One of the victims of such financial devastation is the college fund families may have begun to set aside for the higher education of their children.  Allowing the family court to increase the financial burden on already struggling families, in particular – the non-custodial parents who are so often saddled with the out-of-pocket expenses when such requirements are imposed – only makes family life more difficult for those affected.

To read the details of the case, the opinions of the Supreme Court of South Carolina (including dissenters), click here: Webb v. Sowell (regarding family court requiring divorced/never married parents to pay for children’s college)

For you own educational purposes:

The 14th amendment to the Constitution has an “equal protection” clause, which has been broadly interpreted by 20th Century courts as meaning you can’t apply the same law to two different groups in different ways. The majority decided that the family court can no longer treat the group of (divorced parents) different from the group of (non-divorced parents.)

See also the case: Risinger v. Risinger (1979) to understand the roots from where the original requirements came.

As for now, South Carolina has joined the ranks of the majority of states who do not require non-custodial parents (divorced/never married) to pay for children’s college tuition.