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.