While you certainly want to obtain your fair share of marital assets from your divorce, if you are parents, your primary concern is how your children will fare through the breakup of your marriage. In fact, it is likely that most of the decisions and compromises you make are directly related to the welfare of the kids. Even though it may be years down the road, it is important to include college planning in your divorce settlement.
Sending your kids off to college may have been a given during your marriage. Perhaps you and your spouse even started a savings plan in anticipation of rising tuition costs. However, now that divorce is imminent, you may have to take your plans to the next level and include as many contingencies as possible in your divorce agreement.
Keep these factors in mind
Coming to an agreement about sharing college costs may be easier if your child is already in high school. If graduation is years away, however, you may have to include many more eventualities in your settlement. College expenses include much more than tuition and room and board, so it will be important that you anticipate as many possibilities as you can and include them in your agreement. Some things you may have to consider include the following:
- How will you handle child support and college expenses if your child decides to take time off after high school before starting college?
- Who will get the college savings account during asset division?
- What will happen to the contributions you have made if your child decides not to go to college at all?
- How will you divide expenses such as meal plans, books, laptop, phone plan and other incidentals?
- Will you expect your child to explore scholarships, loans and other forms of financial aid before you contribute?
- How will you adjust your plan if one spouse has a change in income that prevents him or her from making the agreed-upon contribution?
You can make these decisions now while you are already negotiating or include language in your agreement that calls for a discussion when the time gets closer. It is important to understand that federal financial aid looks at the income of the parent with whom the child spends the most time, and it’s not a good idea to try manipulating the system. Instead, you may seek advice from your California attorney who can assist you in drafting a reasonable plan for meeting your goals for your child’s education.