Can I Demand Private School Tuition as Part of Child Support?

As children grow older, their expenses naturally increase. Adolescents and teens engage in activities like sports, dance, painting, music, and crafts that help them develop into well-rounded, capable adults. As a result, costs for equipment, tools, instruments, and training also mount.

Another expense that will likely increase is the cost of education. Most parents are intent on ensuring the finest education for their children that is available to them. For some parents, that means private school. Private School Review reports that the national average tuition for private high schools surpasses $12,000 a year. Multiply that by the number of high-school-age children in a family, and the expense becomes overwhelming.

In Missouri the court takes into consideration each parent’s attitude on private education and their ability to pay the tuition. When one parent desires private school and the other does not, the court may consider whether the private school is necessary to meet the educational needs of the child. In general, many Missouri courts uphold a parent’s decision not to contribute to the tuition for private school based on the premise that the state’s public schools are adequate to fulfill children’s educational needs.

Other Extraordinary Costs

Private or parochial elementary, middle and high school costs may be included as extraordinary costs of raising a child if the parents agree or the court orders the parents to pay these expenses.

The statute lists as examples of “other extraordinary child-rearing costs”:

  • Tutoring sessions;
  • Special schooling camps; and
  • Travel and other activities to enhance the child’s development;

If the court has decided to allow the extraordinary expense, it can order support to cover :

  • Tuition costs;
  • Room and board;
  • Books; and
  • Fees and other necessary expenses.

In determining the amount of the expenses, the court can factor in any scholarships, grants, and stipends available to the child.

Custody is a Factor

When parents share joint legal custody, they both must agree to have the child attend private school. If both parents do not agree, they must submit the issue to mediation if that is provided for in the divorce decree.

In general terms, even with mediation, the child may not be able to attend private school unless:

  • The parents agree, or
  • The parent who does not desire for the child to attend private school agrees to allow the child to enroll if the other parent pays all of the tuition, or
  • The parent who does desire for the child to attend private school petitions the court for a modification of the prior judgment.

If one parent has sole legal custody, that parent may be able to decide to enroll the child in private school over the objection of the other parent. Generally, the parent wanting the child to attend private school cannot force the objecting parent to contribute to or pay the private tuition fees unless the divorce order addresses payment of private school directly or the parent files a motion to modify support and the court orders the opposing parent to pay.

Contact A St. Louis Child Support Attorney

Call (636) 532-2300 today for a Free Consultation and speak with Jay Galmiche, a seasoned St. Louis Divorce Attorney with over three decades of experience. The Galmiche Law Firm, P.C. serves the areas of Chesterfield, Ballwin, Town & Country, and Wildwood, Missouri, along with surrounding areas.