If you have children of any age and are seeking a divorce make sure that negotiating college costs is top on your financial priority list. If your children are young, it is easy to overlook the importance of this issue or feel confident that it will sort itself out later. Unfortunately this is often not the case and is wise to make arrangements for college payments as far in advance as possible. College is only becoming increasingly expensive with private universities running upwards of $60,000 per year. With costs like this you are looking at potential education fees that may exceed the value of your property, retirement, or material assets. Paying for college is no small feat and should be given tremendous consideration during the negotiation stage of a divorce. (Elise is well-versed in this issue – we are currently paying for college education #4 (only 2 more waiting to start this college process) – 2 have graduated and 1 is set to graduate in about 2 days, I am currently at Smith College waiting for both graduation and Oprah’s commencement speech, yippee!!)
In the case of college costs it is possible that the court will order parents to contribute despite the child having reached 18 years of age. This is particularly true if one parent is willing to contribute and a non-custodial parent does not desire to contribute. In this instance the court may order the non-custodial parent contribute to the educational costs of their non-minor child.
When the time for college arrives, the “Free Application for Federal Student Aid” (FAFSA) will help determine a reasonable contribution from your household for the cost of college. The custodial parent (parent who child has lived with most over the past 12 months) is responsible for filling out the FAFSA. Depending your child’s financial aid package, as divorced parents you will then divide up the cost of college based on your previously agreed upon contribution numbers or percentages.
College costs should surely be on the top of your list to discuss with your attorney as you navigate both divorce and the cost of college.