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Divorcing Parents Should Plan And Discuss College Tuition Costs

The economic landscape has changed a lot in just the past decade. What may have seemed obvious or normal before (like the promise of the real estate market) is no longer so obvious. It used to be a common goal and plan for parents that they would pay for their kids’ college tuition when that time comes. That’s becoming a reality further from reach.

U.S. News and World report estimates that the average public, 4-year college education costs about $20,000 just for one year. That’s a significant cost in the long run, especially for families with multiple children. You might be wondering what this has to do with divorce and family law.

Along with divorce should come some thorough financial planning between parents. That discussion should go beyond spousal support, child support and property division. Among that discussion, it is important for parents to talk about goals and plans regarding their children’s college costs.

Do parents want to pay for their kids’ school? That’s a reasonable question to ask. College costs these days can put a damper on parents’ financial stability, especially those who are divorced. There are scholarship and loan options for students to take advantage of without the help of their parents.

Parents need to discuss their college-funding plans during the divorce process and then also fill their kids in on their plan. It’s not ideal to surprise your child once they are just a year or so away from college. The sooner they are filled in on the plan the sooner they can try to evaluate other options besides college immediately after high school or other financing options.

There was a case in Connecticut where a child of divorce sued her father for not helping to pay for her college. She had him sign a contract after the divorce saying that he would help her pay for school. When he supposedly didn’t live up to that promise, she sued him in order to try to get money to go towards her schooling. A court ruled in her favor.

This is an extreme and relatively unique case. But it sounds as though a civil lawsuit and likely feud between the father and his daughter could have been avoided if realistic expectations had been set at the time of the divorce.

Every family’s situation is different. Parents prioritize college differently and have different attitudes regarding funding school. All families have different financial realities as well. These differences and more will affect what works best for a family post-divorce with regards to money and school.

Source: wptv, “Cost Of college a burden for children of divorce,” Ed Greenberger, June 19, 2012

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