Should I pay for my daughter's college education?

I certainly don’t know enough about you to know whether you were a good father to your kids, but I think you are morally and legally responsible for her education. First, you will probably be made to pay the bill in court. I know a few people who have found themselves in similar situations, and had to pay. One was actually a woman who had to pay for her step daughter’s education to a fancy private school because she had joint accounts and shared assets with the father.

If you were still married to your ex-wife, and/or had a good relationship with your daughter, would you have any problem paying for her schooling at the school she has chosen? If your answer is no, than I think you are being really shortsighted and selfish. You shouldn’t do things as a parent with the expectation that you will receive something back. It’s an inherently one-sided relationship for the first few decades. That’s part of being a good parent. I am also kinda surprised you spent more time talking about how it will be a financial disaster than about how your daughter was accepted (and received a partial scholarship) to a great school. I can understand the sobering effect a bill of several thousand dollars can have, but you don’t have a right to be bitter about something like this. The main issue is that your child has a desire to further her education, and do something with her life. You seem more interested in receiving her approbation and affection, then being part of raising an educated and well rounded human being. You know what you did and how you helped mold her, whether she recognizes it is irrelevant. She may think you are a asshole, but the money you give her is what will help her get a great job in the future. That’s what’s most important.

If I were you, I would stop trying to fight it, and set up and meeting with your wife where you promise to redouble your efforts, and stop making her job harder. You should apologize for making your daughter feel like she doesn’t want to be around you, and any other thing that has made the situation more difficult. Doesn’t matter if you don’t feel that way, just say it. Sometimes, being right is not as important as being happy. I would also stop asking your other daughter why the first one hates you, and just tell her to tell her sister you love her and hope she is doing well in school.

If you fight this in court, you will lose either way. If your money is more important than your relationship with your daughters, then go ahead. If not, suck it up, and and pay the bill.

Thanks for the support and help, folks. I have discussed this with friends, but of course they’re my friends, and are inclined mostly to be helpful and supportive, though most of them are as puzzled as I–especially all three of my ex-girlfriends, who never saw me be anything other than an involved and committed dad to both my daughters. (And Twickster, I’m running up a pretty good shrink bill lately, thanks. He’s a great therapist, but again he’s someone whose job it is to help me cope.)

As to the legal issues, most of which flat out puzzle me, it’s my ex- who’s taking me to court with the college bill, claiming that half of the remaining sum is my responsibility to pay, while my lawyer is maintaining, “Well, maybe, if the 18-year-old daughter was speaking to him, but under these conditions, no…” Legally, I’m going to try to have her declared a self-emancipated minor, which means that she is, by her own actions, independent of me and so all claims of liability on my part are no longer valid.

Well, if I were still married, then we would both find a way to pay for things that we could afford somehow. My ex- has a good deal more money than I do, and what she can afford, such as an expensive education for our kids, is not necessarily what I can afford, and she’s calling all the shots as to the schools my kid applies to, etc. (FTR, I work for a university on the same island that my daiughter’s seven sister school is located on, and one of the terms of my employment is that my kids get to go here for free. The regular tuition at my school is over 20,000 a year, but she wouldn’t even apply here.) So this argument really doesn’t apply–if I were still married, and we decided to mortgage our house to pay for school, we’d both be equally inconvenienced by that choice. Now, though, I may have to mortgage my apartment, or borrow against my pension, or take out a whopping loan, while to pay the same sum, my ex- will not need to do any of this stuff.

As to “You should apologize for making your daughter feel like she doesn’t want to be around you, and any other thing that has made the situation more difficult. Doesn’t matter if you don’t feel that way, just say it. Sometimes, being right is not as important as being happy,” if my oldest daughter is not speaking to me, how would you suggest I apologize? Believe me, I have taken full responsibility for upsetting her in my e-mails, and have offered to do whatever it takes (once I find out what her issues are) to remedy the situation, but her response to these e-mails has been pretty much, “Who gives a fuck?”

And as to “I would also stop asking your other daughter why the first one hates you,” where do you get the impression I have done anything vaguely resembling that? All I’ve done, as I said above, is to talk to the younger one and just ask her if she has concerns or questions for me. Do you have an agenda here? If so, please don’t get me involved with your own issues–I have enough troubles of my own right now, thanks.

Most divorces I know of say that the father (sometimes the mother) is responsible for college tuition. However, I don’t see how the judge can make you pay for ANY school the child attends. Can’t he just say that you have to pay for, say, a state school education and not the most expensive school money can buy? What if you COULDN’T pay exhorbitant tuition? Just seems to me that there is a realistic level that you would be required to pay.

Well, in her defense, the amount I’m being asked to pay is within range of half of the State University fee. (She did win some scholarships to the Seven Sisters school–she’s a very bright, capable 18-year old. She’s just very troubled, and upset about something–she just prefers treating as her enemy rather than as the person who cares about her a tremendous amount. That’s the hard part, maintaining my concern and love for her, balanced by my feeling rejected and marginalized, which she is trying her best to make me feel.)

BTW, our divorce decree specifically did not address the issue of tuition, mainly because my ex- was insisting that I help out with any graduate education at any age, which I was not even considering. (I was willing to consider it, of course, in discussion with my adult children, when they reached adulthood, but not willing to have that an issue in my divorce settlement, so we agreed to delay the whole tuition question until later–which is now.)

You have no moral obligation to help pay college tuition for a school you had no say in choosing, and for a person who has refused to speak to you for three years.

I’m 33, and my parents divorced when I was 15. My father and I already had a rocky relationship at the time, and things had not improved by the time I was ready for college – in my case, however, Dad really was an asshole. I came close to cutting off contact with him once or twice, but never took it that far. When it came time for school, Dad’s solution was to say that he would give me $2000/year, for four years (and the same deal would apply to my brother two years from then, when he was ready for college). He expressed no interest in having a say about where I went, and I wound up picking a small private school that cost way more than $2000/year. I don’t think it ever occurred to my mother to try to take him to court to get more. I got through school with help from family and student loans and a part-time job, and eventually even an anonymous benefactor.

Yes, for a while I was bitter that he’d picked an arbitrary figure like that – and one that seemed to “encourage” going to a state school. My brother chose a community college that he barely graduated from, and sometimes Dad still talks about “owing” education money to my brother, which is a little annoying. But even at my most adolescent, I never would have expected – or accepted – any college money from him if I’d stopped speaking to him, let alone if I hadn’t talked to him for 3 years before college started. That’s a degree of selfishness and greed that I simply can’t understand. (FWIW, Dad and I get along much better these days.)

Your daughter has ended your relationship. It completely sucks, because you had no say in the matter, but any future relationship you have with her cannot be based on whether you helped pay for college. Please, please don’t feel morally obligated to give in to her (or her mother’s) ridiculous demands: if there is any future for your relationship, she’ll understand about the tuition thing when she grows up.

I’m sorry that you’re in this situation. :frowning:

If you’re asking for my opinion on the morals of this, my answer is that no one is morally obliged to send a child through college unless they have promised to do so.
100 years ago, NO ONE would have disagreed with me on that.
I believe that certain economic realities are slowly changing my expressed opinion into a minority opinion.

I third this! I have a great relationship with all four of my parents, but I paid my own way through my bachelor’s degree and I’m currently paying my own way through the masters. Dad has helped me out here and there. For example, once I asked to borrow some money to cover tuition and when I tried to pay it back later he wouldn’t let me. He and my stepmother frequently buy meals for me. For a while I lived with them, paying a very small amount for rent. They would have let me stay rent-free, but I balked at that. When I moved out I was allowed to bring my laundry to their place and do it there. They help me in a lot of small ways that add up. And when I got the bachelor’s degree, they threw me a damn big party.

I don’t think you are in any way morally obligated to pay for her school, particularly when she’s cut you off this way. That’s not to say that down the road you couldn’t mail her a check or a gift certificate for books or clothes and try to help out in small ways. Who knows? Maybe college will give her some perspective.

Whatever the case, I wish you the very best. I hope everything works out.

Sorry for your trouble, Misnomer–if you don’t mind me asking, what did your dad do that you considered him an asshole when you were 15? (Not that my own dad, whose memory I revere today, wasn’t a gigantic, despicable asshole when I was 15, too–but I, like you, didn’t quite refuse to acknowledge his presence on this earth, which I was glad I hadn’t done when he died before I turned 18.) I’m wondering if maybe I’m overlooking some area of assholish behavior on my part to set her off like this.

I’m wondering specifically if I’m coming off as self-righteous in that I’m seeming to absolve myself of any bad acts just because I didn’t do specific things like hit her, scold her, moralize at her, etc. Just to save you some time, I’ll list some other categories I think may justify (in her mind, at least, or in some of yours) cutting a parent off, none of which I’ve come near doing:

sexual abuse

drinking/drug abuse

cheating on her mother

failing to pay child support

I’m sure there are other categories of despicable behavior in a child’s eyes (not that I’m judging, I’m just trying to see what she could possibly justify her behavior with). Any more broad categories that might make her choice to cut me off seem reasonable to her?

If anyone wants to supply what was going through his or her mind when he or she decided to cut a parent off, please feel free to speak your piece.

Oh, I started that out meaning to acknowledge my gratitude for Misnomer’s comment

and for others who have voiced similar thoughts. It probably shouldn’t have helped so much that total strangers have expressed their sympathy, but believe me, it does.

(I normally hate quoting an entire post in a response, but I vehemently disagree with just about everything you wrote, so I just had to keep it all there.)

If the parents were still together, both mom and dad would have input on what school the child attends, based upon their income level. The daughter in this situation is forcing a tuition payment on dad without first ASKING him if he can afford it. That’s not love, that’s extortion. Dad’s being viewed as nothing more than a wallet.

If my son cut off all ties to me, and then came to me several years later, demanding that I pay for his college education, I’d have a few choice words for him right before I kicked his butt out of my house. Luckily, I’m not in that situation- my son wants me in his life, and I’m more than happy to contribute to his education.

And, yes, as I understand it, most divorce decrees (at least in Texas) nowadays demand that the dad (or noncustodial parent, usually the same thing, dammit) must pay for the child’s college education until the child is 21. This is bullshit, in my view- since the state isn’t forcing non-divorced dads to pay for their kid’s college, why are divorced parents singled out? And who pays if, Og forbid, both of the parents are deceased?

My parents were divorced. My dad was never a real factor in my life. When it came time for me to go to college, my mom had already died, and it never even crossed my mind to hit my dad up for the money.

I completely agree with both of these.

I don’t mean that he seemed like an asshole because I was 15, I mean that he really was an asshole. Emotionally abusive, etc. He can still be kind of a dick these days, too, but he’s improved over the years. The reason we get along now is partly because I’ve grown up and partly because he’s grown up, but it’s mostly because I’ve learned not to rely on him for any emotional or financial support (and if I ever “slip” and expect him to act like a dad, well, I remember again right quick and mentally kick myself). We see each other a handful of times a year, exchange a few e-mails, and all is well. It’s complicated as hell, but I love him now, and I believe that he loves me now, too. Sometimes he even surprises me by being understanding about things that would have set him off a few years before, but I never have been and never will be a “daddy’s girl.”

Anyway, my point was that I would have been completely justified in cutting off contact with my father back then. As teenagers, everyone thinks that their parents are jerks from time to time, but the ones who completely cut off contact out of some perceived slight just piss me right off. Obviously I only have your word about the story, but if I were you I wouldn’t waste too much time wondering what you did wrong, or what your daughter is/was thinking: she’s being selfish and immature, and there is no logic in that. You’ll drive yourself crazy trying to find any.

(On preview, you’re very welcome for the support: it’s what we’re here for, and this is one of those rare times when I actually know something about the situation being discussed!)

You know, when I was composing my first post in this thread I started it by saying “I disagree with brickbacon’s entire post,” but for some reason I deleted it. Now that you’ve said my exact thoughts, though, I’ll chime in with a “me, too!” (I always had a feeling you were more than just another pretty face… ;))

Why must things be equal? Sure it will be harder on you then your ex-wife, but it’s for the greater good. You already said the price was within the range of what you would pay for a state school. I think you should stop playing the role of victim and just do what’s best for your daughter.

I meant apologize to her mother who, in all likelihood, is adding fuel to the fire and/or not putting it out. I suggested it as a gesture of good will.

What agenda could I have? I have no stake in the matter, I have no issues that would cloud my judgment. That’s a strange question from someone asking others for advice. You said the following:

So, you have (at least) spoken to her about the situation and asked how it’s affecting her. Don’t act as if I pulled this out of thin air. Maybe I shouldn’t have used the word hate, but you have clearly asked your other daughter why the other one feels the way she does. Despite your efforts, your daughter is already in the middle of this. You made a mistake as soon as you asked her to make an evaluative statement about her sister’s behavior. Even if she thought her sister’s stance had some merit, do you really think she would tell you? Many kids would not because they wouldn’t want to damage the relationship.

Before asking if I have issues, I think you should take a look at yourself. Isn’t it strange that you have no idea why your daughter will not speak to you? Why is she frightened of you if you’ve done nothing that could make her feel that way? Clearly this didn’t get as bad as it is overnight, and for you to have no understanding how and why it’s gotten this way doesn’t sound like a problem a caring and observant father would have.

(I normally hate quoting an entire post in a response, but I vehemently disagree with just about everything you wrote, so I just had to keep it all there.)

Extortion? Is paying child support extortion? People are forced to pay for things all the time in divorce situations. He already said the bill was within range of what a state school would cost, and I don’t think he’s said he couldn’t afford it. He said it would be an great inconvenience. Most importantly, being right is only a small part of the picture. If he ever wants to have a positive relationship with his family, it’s in his best interests to act in her best interests.

What if he demanded that you pay for his food and shelter, or new clothing, etc.? Why act like a jerk because someone else was a jerk to you. I get the desire to, but being that way to your children is pretty immature.

Sorry to hear about your family situation. However, I think the reason why many states have those laws is because they assume most married parents would do what’s best for their children of their own accord. The same cannot be said for all deadbeat parents (not that he’s a deadbeat).

Well, he’s already lost his relationship with one duaghter, and he has no idea why or if he actually did something to cause it, and his estranged daughter won’t tell him what he did wrong. Should he not be concerned that the same might happen with his other daughter? How can he prevent this, if he doesn’t ask the other daughter if he’s doing anything that would drive her away like he (apparently) drove away her sister?

Well, that was certainly a helpful and constructive statement.

The problem is that he’s being forced to pay for the equivalent of the entire tuition of a state school, on a lesser salary than his ex-wife makes. Furthermore, it doesn’t sound like tuition was discussed at all in the divorce settlement. His ex-wife decided this by fiat and handed it over to him without a second thought.

Bullpucky. There is NO law in the US that mandates that every parent is obligated to send a child to college. It is nice if the parents opt to pay for a kid to go, BUT technically once the kid in question hits 18 and majority you can legally throw them out of the house with narry a problem. Now granted, many divorce decrees do include provisions for college, but if his doesn’t, then she is SOL until a family courrt judge pounds that gavel. I am not a lawyer…but I have lots of friends both from divorced parents and undivorced parents…and I know many people bounced out of the house at 18, and i know a few from divorced parents that had a provision about college education [mrAru’s father had to put a certain amount in the bank each year for he and his sister for a college fund, and I know that my uncles kids by his first wife got money from the family trust for education - a lump sum equivalent to the SUNY system for 4 years.]

Honestly, I would get the documentation together showing that she voluntarily severed almost all communication 3 years ago, and as a bargaining chip at last resort offer the judge the equivalent of half community or state school tuition. You are not an ATM, and you have no moral grounds to pay for her education.

Legally I am not competent to give advice, and you wanted moral advice anyway. (Have you consulted a lawyer? That’s the one bit of legal advice I’d give you.)

Morally I think you are completely within your rights not to pay. She is an adult who has voluntarily severed ties to you. The only reason I could think why you’d want to pay would be in the hope of repairing those ties. I can’t say whether or not that’s a reasonable hope, not personally knowing you or your daughter. But that’s alot of money for a hope. Also
not paying for college might be the wake up call she needs if she’s playing some sort of mind game.

Lots of luck, man. However this plays out, I know it’s going to be a source of pain for you. I hope you’re able to get some communication with your daughter eventually and find out what’s really going on. It may take years though.

Sorry. I missed your post #22 above.

(Read thread first, Then post. I keep forgetting that! :smack:

OK. However, there are laws saying a person is his situation has to. In many states you are required to pay for things like college until the child is 21. I expect he will eventually lose his court battle.