Family First – Who Pays for Extra Curricular Activities and College Tuition?

Board Certified family attorney Sonya Coffman answers the questions of Southeast Texas KFDM News viewers. These questions include:

  • Who pays for Extra Curricular Activities and College Tuition after a divorce?
  • How can I change a child’s last name if I don’t have legal custody of the child?
  • Can a divorce be granted if a parent hasn’t completed a Court ordered parenting class?
  • How can I get child support if I don’t know where my child’s father works?
  • Is living together enough to prove common law marriage and the existence of community property?
  • Can a step-parent file for custody?


Extra curricular activities, private schools, summer camp, potentially pricey items, but who pays for them after a divorce?  The court expects that the child's expenses are paid by the child support, and hopes that the parents would agree to split the cost of other expenses; however, the court cannot force the parents to do so. College tuition is another issue that shocks some parents, the court cannot order child support past high school graduation or the child's 18th birthday, and college tuition cannot be ordered.  College is always something to be negotiated.  If an agreement can be reached at the time of the divorce that is the best option.

Viewer question: My niece lives with me but I do not have legal custody of her. I want to change her name to what is should be legally, and her parents have agreed to the name change; however, they will not give up their parental rights.  Howe can I change her last name?

Answer: If the parents consent, a name change is pretty easy to do.  There is no reason why they should not be able to change this child's name.

Viewer question: If parents are divorcing, and one parent refuses to take the Parenting Course, can the divorce still be granted?

Answer: What the courts do is hold the decree, and not sign it, until both parents have taken the course.  If the party who filed the divorce has done their job and taken the course, and one parent still refuses to take the course, the court may go ahead and grant the divorce and will not hold the divorce hostage on that issue, but will make a note that if the non-complying parent comes back and asks for a modification later, then the modification will not be heard until that parent takes the course as required.

Viewer question: My wife's ex will not tell us his place of employment and will not pay child support. What can we do?

Answer: Go to the Attorney General's Office, they have data bases that tell them where people work for purposes of collecting child support and they should be able to help.

Viewer question: My girlfriend has lived with me for 5 years. If we split up can she get some of my belongings because of common law marriage?

Answer: This viewer must think that if you live together for a certain amount of time that you are common law married; however, this is not the test in Texas. If a couple meets the requirement for common law marriage then there may be some community property to divide but if they do not meet the requirements then there is not community property to divide.

Viewer question: Allegations of child abuse, blackmail over child support, step father wants to try to get custody of the children. The mother would actually be the one to get custody of her own children if the parties are married; if the parties are separated the step father would have to establish that he has standing to seek custody.  It is possible that he could show substantial past contact with the children and that the children are not presently in a safe environment he might be able to get in the custody fight.