Whether your children are young or already in high school, your divorce agreement may involve many decisions about their future. You and your ex may have some challenges ironing out the parenting plans, holiday schedules and other custody matters. Ideally, neither of you will dig in and refuse to compromise, and you can reach peaceful agreements.
Additionally, you will need to spend time figuring out how to divide the financial responsibilities involved in raising the children. Clothing, school supplies, sports and music lessons are just a few of the expenses that may arise as your children grow. However, don’t forget to discuss one of the biggest expenses of all: college. It is never too early to plan for how you will pay for your child’s higher education.
College is not for everyone, and there is no guarantee that your child will have any interest in continuing his or her education after high school. However, it is best to be prepared since college tuition is not generally something you can pull out of your savings.
As divorced parents, you will have to make decisions that are more complex. For example, your divorce agreement may stipulate whether both you and your ex must consent to your child’s choice of college. This could make a tremendous difference in the cost.
Important points to consider
Some important factors to keep in mind when negotiating college payment in your divorce agreement include the following:
- College planning experts recommend starting a 529 savings plan, but you will have to decide whether you or your ex will own and manage it.
- Your divorce settlement should place restrictions on the use of 529 funds to prevent one spouse from clearing out the account.
- The amount in your child’s 529 may also affect the amount of financial aid your child is eligible for, but the tax benefits of a 529 may be worth it.
- Filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form is critical, even if you believe your family income may not qualify your child for aid.
- You and your ex must decide which of you will complete the FAFSA; typically, this is done by the parent with the lower income.
College tuition can easily cost tens of thousands for a state school and much more for a private school. Since this does not include books, fees, room and board, technology needs, and incidentals, planning ahead is absolutely essential.
You and your spouse may be dealing with many important issues during your divorce, but it is important that your child’s education is not swept under the rug or left as an afterthought.