Alabama Supreme Court Says Parents Don’t Have to Pay College Expenses

MONTGOMERY, Alabama  — The Alabama Supreme Court today overturned a 1989 decision requiring noncustodial parents to help pay college expenses for children 19 and older.

In a 6-2 decision, the court ruled that the 1989 decision “failed to recognize the ordinary and common-law definitions of ‘child’ as a minor,” which the Legislature has defined in Alabama as under 19.

 The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice Roy Moore, said the ruling would not affect cases where final decisions have been entered. But the decision will apply to pending cases and cases that are on appeal, the ruling says.

 The decision came in a case originating in Limestone County in 2010. A divorced father asked the trial court to order his ex-wife to help pay college expenses for their son, who was about to turn 19. After a trial, the court ordered the ex-wife to pay 25 percent of the son’s college costs. The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals upheld the decision. But today’s decision reversed the ruling of the Court of Civil Appeals and sent the case back to that court.