The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

October 14, 2013

Court reverses portion of state divorce law

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A decision by the Alabama Supreme Court from earlier this month could have an impact on how students of divorced parents finance their college educations.

The state's high court ruled on Oct. 4. that non-custodial parents should no longer be legally required to help pay for their child's college expenses, The Opelika-Auburn News reported Sunday.

The case, Christopher v. Christopher, began in Limestone County after a divorced father asked his estranged wife to help finance their son's college education. A court ordered the woman to pay a quarter of the boy's education costs and the decision was upheld by the Court of Civil Appeals before it was heard by the state Supreme Court.

Now, arrangements between divorced couples financing children's educations must be voluntary.

Stephanie Pollard, an attorney from Auburn, says the decision reversed one of the state's most controversial family law cases.

In 1989, the Alabama Supreme Court determined in the Bayliss v. Bayliss case that non-custodial parents should help pay the cost of some educational expenses for children who were at least 19 years old and unable to support themselves.

"It doesn't matter how long and how much time has gone by. If we're wrong, we're wrong," she said.

Chairman of the Family Bar Section of the Alabama State Bar Association, Stephen Johnson, told the newspaper he wasn't surprised with the court's decision.

"Most lawyers that I know whom do domestic appellate work have been looking for the right case to take to the Supreme Court to challenge the Bayliss decision for years," he said.

Many non-custodial parents want to help pay for their children's education, Pollard said.

"My hope is that people will do the right thing and put their kids first," she said. "Christopher will only allow the very slim number of parents who would have refused to pay anything for their child's college expenses to escape this obligation."

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