Divorce and Paying for Your Children’s College Education

Many people going through the divorce settlement process wonder if they can require their soon-to-be ex-spouse to pay for their children’s college education.   In California there is no obligation for a parent to pay for college.  However, it is possible for divorcing couples to work through this issue and come to an agreement.

In the collaborative divorce process I have helped many couples reach mutually agreeable terms regarding the funding or partial funding of their children’s college education.  Some of the issues that we address include:

  • Each parent’s financial resources
  • The children’s financial resources
  • Each parent’s expectations for their children’s education
  • The child’s aptitude, ability, goals and interests

Once both parties agree on these basic issues, we begin working on an agreement that will ultimately be included in the divorce settlement.  In the agreement I typically recommend addressing the following:

  • Whether the child will attend a public or private institution
  • Maximum number of consecutive semesters each parent will  pay for
  • Whether the parents  will contribute to the child’s living expenses.  If so, how much?
  • Whether the parents will pay for medical or dental expenses while the child is a student
  • Specifics about how any scholarships, grants, or loans taken out by the child will impact each parent’s contributions

In some cases, parents agree to set up a pre-paid tuition plan, a separate savings or investment account, such as a 529 plan, and identify how much each parent will contribute.

So you can see that there are alternative ways to plan for your children’s college education costs.   Keep in mind that this approach does require cooperation between the parties.  I recommend that you work with a divorce financial specialist who has the training and experience working with divorcing couples within a mediation or collaborative process.

This entry was posted in California Child Support, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, Divorce Financial Planning and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Divorce and Paying for Your Children’s College Education

  1. Claudia says:

    What happens when one parent has the means but refuses to pay for a share of the child’s education? Are there legal ways to prevent this from happening?

  2. Robin says:

    Claudia, that happened to me…..my ex makes a ton of money. We tried to get him to help out financially with our oldest’s college expenses and he and his attorney fought bitterly on it saying that “he is over 18 and not legally responsible. Here we are 3 years later and the louse doesn’t give a penny nor has he talked to the child since the day he left.

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