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Divorce and paying for a child’s college

Many California teens have finished applying for early admission at the college of their choice. Others are still in the process of deciding which institution is right for them.

Meanwhile, college tuition is rising, having increased on average 13 percent in the last five years, according to College Board. A private college in California costs over $50,000 per year for in-state residents, and over $13,000 for public institutions. It is no wonder that parents save and plan for years to help their children get an education.

Divorce can complicate financial plans

Divorce can throw a wrench into well-laid plans for paying for college. That is not to say there are no options available, however. If college is in the near future for a child, parents can work out an agreement in divorce to allocate responsibility for paying for the costs of higher education.

Child support and college expenses

Courts do not generally impose an obligation on either parent to pay for a child’s college expenses. Child support ends when a child turns 18 or finishes high school, whichever comes later.

However, parties to a divorce are free to agree to pay for college expenses in the divorce settlement. Each party could agree to split equally the costs of tuition and room and board, for example. It is important to factor in various possibilities in this agreement. Is the agreement for public colleges only? Are there time limits if the child does not go to college right after high school?

Discussing and negotiating comprehensively during divorce can save arguments later and eliminate uncertainties when the time comes to pay for college.

Setting up a trust

If there are already funds available to pay for college, a good option is to establish a trust. A trust can address all of the issues of paying for college and provides protection against one party failing to live up to the agreement.

Financial matters in divorce involve more than just alimony and child support. It is important to act as comprehensively as possible in deciding financial plans for yourself and your children. With proper planning, you can keep financial stability and help pay for college, as well. 

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