Reimbursement for a Spouse’s Education Cost

Reimbursement for a Spouse’s Education Cost

Often, during a marriage one or both spouses seek some kind of higher education. If so, the couple likely will spend a large sum of money on attaining that education. Should the parties later divorce, and the spouse who attained this education is more likely than not poised to benefit from a higher income, leaving the other spouse to wonder what kind of rights he or she has in regard to the community’s contributions to such education.

In California, the community can be reimbursed for contributions to education of a spouse that substantially enhances that spouse’s earning capacity. Specifically, Family Code section 2641, subsection (b) (1), states: “The community shall be reimbursed for community contributions to education or training of a party that substantially enhances the earning capacity of the party. / The amount reimbursed shall be with interest at the legal rate, accruing from the end of the calendar year in which the contributions were made.”

This means that should one spouse attend school during marriage, the money spent on that education will be returned to the community and split fifty/fifty – subject to certain exceptions.

For one, if the community has substantially benefited from the education, training, or loan incurred for the education of the party, the community will not be entitled to reimbursement. This means that if the education occurred a very long time ago, reimbursement may not apply.

Similarly, if both parties received an education during marriage, then the education received by one is offset by that received by the other. Reimbursement may not apply or may be lowered accordingly.

Finally, if the spouse’s education negates the other party’s need to pay spousal support, the reimbursement may also be eliminated.

As with all issues, reimbursement rights in regard to a spouse’s education can be complex. To better understand how your or your spouse’s education and the accompanying reimbursement rights might impact your divorce, speak with a California family law attorney.