Is a Divorced Parent Required to Pay for a Child’s College Education?
After a divorce, which parent should pay the child’s college education? It depends. While it’s clear that a majority of parents worry about the inability to cover high costs of education for their kids, after divorce, this issue becomes more complicated.
Single or married couples can decide to contribute an equal amount to their child’s learning costs, but this is not the same when it comes to divorced spouses. Here, it’s mostly a question of “who?” instead of “how?”
It’s also essential that you understand that rules differ according to each state. For instance, in places like Utah and Washington, judges direct non-custodial spouses to contribute to their kid’s college education costs. On the other hand, states like Alaska don’t allow the judge to make such an order unless the parties involved had a previous understanding.
Have Everything in Writing
Together with factors like distribution of property, spousal support, and child custody, your divorce statement should also include items like:
- Who’s responsible for payment and expenses? Will one spouse cover the entire cost or will you split the responsibilities equally?
- How many years will you have to pay for college fees? In a study done in 2014 by a nonprofit organization called Complete College America, almost all college students take at least four years to finish their undergraduate program. So, it’s wise that you set up a cap on the amount of time that you’ll need to cover college accommodation and tuition as well as other expenses.
- Creating a suitable value for your costs – according to National Centre for Education Statistics, “In 2014 to 2015, the country spent an average amount of $41.970 as parents tried to meet costs of fees, tuition, and room.” It even showed a rise as compared to the previous decade. So, with such growing costs, agreeing on an appropriate caps for expenses certainly makes sense. A suitable method is when one spouse decides to cover 75 percent of the charges, and the other parent pays the rest.
Expect the Best But Plan for the Worst
Some parents set aside a certain sum of money for higher education costs. Others opt to keep on saving every year before their child joins college. Whichever direction you decide to take, set aside funds in a 529 plan which is a tax-free place to keep college expenses, or a straightforward trust account.
Securing your money in any of these accounts reduces the temptation of one spouse to “borrow” or withdraw if it’s easy to access the cash. After all, you wouldn’t want to reach your kid’s 18th birthday only to realize that the college fund is depleted.
You should also include requirements for disability and life insurance with amounts sufficient enough to cover all college expenses. In doing so, you make sure that your child is protected in case a tragic and unforeseen calamity befalls you or your spouse.
What If There’s No Agreement in Place?
Co-parenting is important for divorced spouses who don’t have a payment agreement. It teaches them to work together and come up with a solution when it’s time for their child to go to college. However, if they fail to reach an understanding, they could take the issue to a court of law. Depending on the state laws, the judge evaluates the education level of the parent, income statement, and available assets to determine if one parent or both should pay.
If you’re going through a divorce, discussing your finances is one of the challenges you’ll come across. Still, it’s essential to consider your kid’s education and settle on the financial plan that makes sense. It’s one of the best ways of giving your child a comfortable college experience despite potentially difficult times.
How Do Courts Settle Cases on Parent College Tuition Responsibilities?
Today, almost 27 states have legal precedents and laws that allow the court to direct non-custodial parents to contribute towards their child’s higher education. The courts may order one parent to pay all college expenses or just half of the total costs including tuition and accommodation. Judges here evaluate the following factors:
- Values and goals of the parent on matters concerning the child’s higher education.
- The number of fees that the child needs to join college, for example, to become a professional essay writer.
- Does the parent have the ability to pay?
- Aptitude and commitment of their child when it comes to their education.
- Is there any financial aid like loans or grants?
- The relationship that the child has with the paying parent.
In other situations, the judge goes through the family history to know if the parties have previously paid for an older child. Furthermore, the background of the parents’ education is another crucial element that they will look at as well. If both of them have certified college degrees, there’s a strong possibility that the judge will order them to cater to their child’s school fees too.
What If You Can’t Afford to Pay Your Kid’s College Fees?
Most parents would love to help their kids get the best level of education. Unfortunately, college can be quite expensive with costs increasing every year. So, what should you do if you don’t have the resources? The best answer is: it depends!
If the state directs you to contribute to your child’s education, then you’ll have to look for appropriate and legal means. The same case applies if you had already made a previous agreement with your spouse. The good news is there are plenty of methods in which you can pay your child’s college fees. For example:
- Applying for scholarships or grants
- Encouraging your child to enroll in a local community college
- Taking up a Parent Plus Loan or any other loan
Normally, divorce causes low self-esteem in young children. However, most parents love their children and want them to have the best things in life. We also understand the hefty college fees that parents have to pay. The process is even more challenging if you’re seeking an annulment.
However, we hope that, with all this information in mind, you can make the right financial plan for your family’s needs.
About the Author: Jake Lester is an essay writer that is fond of writing about various spheres of life. The most recurring themes he covers are education, writing and marketing. He has his own writing style and this is why he is appreciated by readers. You may look through Facebook, Twitter & Google+.