College Payments Can No Longer be Judicially Forced

For over 20 years in the State of Alabama, post-minority “child support” through the payment of college tuition and expenses could be ordered against a non-custodial parent as a form of child support.

This rule came into effect in the late 1980’s with the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling in Bayliss, which became one of the most controversial legal opinions of its time related to divorce, custody, and family law.  The court in Bayliss, held that a custodial parent could petition the Court, prior to a child’s entering college or reaching the age of majority, for post-minority support against the non-custodial parent.  This meant that parents (usually non-custodial fathers although the petitioner in Christopher was a noncustodial mother) could be required to pay college fees and costs, despite the fact that the child had reached the age of majority, which is 19 in Alabama.

However, in the recent family law case of Christopher v. Christopher, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed the findings of the divorce court, as well as its own long- standing legal precedent regarding child support by overturning the Bayliss decision.  As of October 4, 2013, post minority support cannot be judicially required in the State of Alabama.

Before those of you that are spending tens of thousands of dollars paying college tuition under a court order get too excited, the Alabama Supreme Court opinion made it clear that its ruling only applies prospectively and not retroactively.  This means that if anyone is under a final order to pay the college costs of a child who has reached the age of majority; such child support order is still binding.

If the case is still on appeal, the Court indicates that Christopher would provide relief from post-minority child support.  It also presents a bar on future Bayliss hearings where college costs are sought from the non-custodial parent.

If you have any questions about the Alabama laws regarding child support you should speak to a qualified Alabama divorce attorney.  Call our Birmingham child support attorneys with the Birmingham legal team of Parkman White, LLP to discuss your rights today.