Reducing the impact of divorce on children’s college education

Preparing for college costs can be a daunting task for any parents in California. This process can be even more complicated for divorced parents. It’s estimated that two-thirds of married couples have no financial plan in place in case of divorce or death of a spouse. Even though divorce can strain finances, there are some ways parents may be able reduce the impact of a split on their child’s education.

College-related expenses generally range anywhere from around $20,000 to nearly $50,000. Regardless of what the tally ends up being, former spouses who are actively co-parenting are generally advised to put child support for minor children, spousal support and other family obligations first.

As for which college a child goes to, a common piece of advice is for parents to opt for the best school a child prefers that’s also affordable. This means one parent cannot have the court force the other parent to pay for expensive schools if the money simply isn’t there. Graduate school is also usually excluded from divorce-related financial obligations. Divorced parents may be able to make post-high school education more affordable with a 529 plan, which is tax-free as long as the accumulated money is used for education expenses. While normally owned by one parent, an existing 529 plan may be split in two after divorce.

What a family law attorney may do to help a divorcing spouse prepare for college costs is suggest seeking input from a financial planner. If this type of professional is consulted during the divorce process, a lawyer may be able to negotiate an agreement that leaves enough room for college expenses. With children who aren’t yet old enough for college at the time of a divorce, an attorney might suggest making appropriate divorce agreement modifications when college costs become an issue.

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