• May 3, 2011

When Lowanda and Brian Kail divorced in 1992, they agreed to split “all necessary and reasonable” expenses for their then-toddler son’s post-high-school education “to the extent” that each was “financially able.”  Sixteen years later their son enrolled at Augsburg College, incurring yearly tuition and board of approximately $33,000 annually, plus additional expenses for books, supplies, and other fees.  When Brian declined to pay half of the costs, Lowanda moved to enforce the agreement.

The district court found the agreement to be ambiguous, denied Lowanda’s motion, and struck the provision from the decree.  The court of appeals reverse and remanded.  The district court conducted no hearings, did not reopen the record, referred to it’s earlier decision and found that Brian was unable to pay any amount toward any post-secondary costs.  Lowanda once again appealed.

The court of appeals, expressing some frustration, concluded that the language was clear enough to demonstrate that both parties understood that each was expected to pay at least some of their son’s post-secondary costs.  The court further found the Brian has acknowledged that he could pay $300 per month, thus such amount was reasonable.  In addition, because “Augsburg College is a college of some type, and it requires tuition,” tuition was a “necessary” expense.

Students at Augsburg will likely be happy to know that they do indeed attend “a college of some type.”  Parents should recognize that if they agree in a divorce decree to pay college expenses, they may actually have to follow through.

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