Key College Planning Questions for Divorcing Parents

Key College Planning Questions for Divorcing Parents

When a couple with children divorces, they need to consider how college expenses will now be planned. Will their original thinking about paying for college look different? Yes. Here are questions they need to consider:

Are you willing to change your lifestyle --even more than a divorce normally alters lifestyle -- in order to continue with your original thinking on paying for college? This may mean less alimony/part-time job/smaller house so that money can continue to be put away for college.

What age do you feel is the “age of responsibility?”  Note that in Virginia (and other states, as well) judges have no legal authority to order parents to pay anything toward the support of their children once they are no longer minors.  However, Virginia (and other) courts will most definitely enforce what parents agree to in their Marital Settlement Agreement and MSA with regard to funding their children's college careers.  Coming up with a mutually agreeable solution in these types of cases can be tough but can be done.  My most creative example of a solution in a case like this that I have seen:  Each parent pays for 25% of the children's college expenses, tuition + university fees + room & board + books only (not spending or travel money) for a total of 9 semesters.

What is an acceptable college cost?  Most parents agree that tuition, university fees, books, certain electronics, room & board (dorms and reasonable rate + meal plans and reasonable grocery allowance) are ok.  However, parents will also need to make decisions with regard to spending/pocket money, transportation funds (e.g. gasoline, plane tickets to come home and back, automobile insurance, automobile payments), vacations, gifts (for their friends, family), entertainment cash.

More financial planning tips—like considering tax implications-- can be found in this recent article in US News & World Report article where I was quoted along with other legal and financial professionals: 3 college funding questions to answer during a divorce.

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