Parents often have differing opinions about their kids’ college education: in-state versus out-of-state decisions, community college versus a university, helping your kids pay for college versus a “They’re on their own, now!” mentality. Those differences in opinion can be even more notable when the parents are divorced and have possibly moved on to start a new life and family.
As if there’s not enough to think about when co-parenting and helping your teen apply for college, child support stops at the age of 18 (the age of “majority”) in most states.
So, how can you help your child reach their higher educational goals? Here are some steps you can take now for smoother sailing in the future when it’s time for you and your kid(s) to plan for college.
Seek legal guidance for information and advice on your child’s entitlements to educational support after high school. Courts won’t order a parent to pay for college or vocational training. However, some states will support and enforce private agreements between parents to provide financial assistance for college expenses, so it’s important to discuss the college years ahead of time with your ex and get it in writing.
To begin the conversation and keep a record of it, take advantage of co-parenting apps for court-approved financial assistance for college. Even better, look for a co-parenting expense tracker app that you and your ex can use well into your child’s college years to track and account for those shared costs.
Start a written conversation with your ex within your co-parenting app regarding your child’s post-secondary education, even if it’s already in your child support agreement. Look for an app that will save conversations that you, your ex, and any legal representatives can refer to when needed.
While paying for college still isn’t mandatory in some states, it can be ordered by the courts if you meet specific requirements. Your unique situation and the state you live in play a part in what financial assistance you and your child receive for college. Reach out to your legal advisor first to help you create a realistic plan that meets any state requirements for support.
Despite your kids’ ages at the time of your divorce, start planning their college years with your ex as soon as possible. Include financial provisions for college in your parenting plan and court orders, if possible. Decide how those expenses will be shared among you, your ex, and also your child. Determine the maximum amount each parent can contribute and discuss applying for financial aid to include loans, grants, and scholarships. Consider having your child find part-time work to help pay for college expenses. Plus, talk about how much in additional expenses you and your ex are willing to fund, including food, housing, and “fun money.”
Recognize that an agreement might not be possible by the time your divorce is finalized, and that’s okay. If you have to leave the specifics of college finances open-ended for now, you can. But do include information that you both agree to pay for college education in some way, or you might compromise your rights to ask for it later.
Your divorce agreement can play a crucial role once your child begins applying for college. Once your child reaches the age for considering college (their first or second year of highschool), review your divorce agreement, parenting plan, and anything you have in writing concerning their higher education. Understanding the terms of the divorce and communicating early with your ex will help avoid future conflict. This is where a record of your communication in a shared parenting app will come in handy.
Whether your divorce feels fresh or like a lifetime ago, revisiting your agreements will prepare you and your child for expected financial support or the end of it. Also, it will steer you and your child to the best affordable college options. If no agreements have already been made, you will need to think about how to enter negotiations with your ex and their legal counsel.
Money is typically tight for a divorced parent. No matter what, take care of essential expenses first. Footing the bill for your child’s college tuition isn’t necessarily your priority if you can’t meet your immediate needs and prepare for retirement.
Your child can potentially earn scholarships, get financial aid packages from the government, and take out school loans that can be paid over time. You, the parent, receive no such financial aid when your money is tight, and you can’t buy food or pay for medical expenses if all your money is going towards your child’s education.
Your number one priority is to take care of yourself so that you can take care of your child. It’s like an airline attendant telling you to put your own oxygen mask on first so you can help your child with theirs.
Take care of your immediate and future financial needs. Seek legal advice from an expert for your child’s college needs. Plan with your ex, and use a co-parenting app to help you create and store those communications. Finally, review your parenting plan, divorce documents, and any other communications you have about college early on so that you all can do what’s best for your child.
Divorce makes everything more complicated and challenging, including planning for your child’s college. There are different opinions on which university to choose and how to finance the tuition. Regardless of what age the child is at the time of divorce, it is crucial to plan ahead for the future to support the child’s higher education goals. Here’s how to work it out and make it happen.