Your child’s college costs should be part of divorce negotiations

If your child is still in grade school or younger when you divorce, you and your spouse may not be giving much thought to their college education. However, divorce can throw a wrench into college savings. 

That’s why it’s often wise for parents to negotiate how college costs will be divided while they’re negotiating child support, custody and other aspects of their divorce.

College expenses typically aren’t part of child support

College costs are usually dealt with separately from support. In Connecticut, child support typically ends when a child turns 18, so one parent can’t require the other to contribute to paying for a child’s college education unless they put something in writing.

Further, circumstances change. Maybe your spouse will eventually have stepchildren whose college costs they want to help pay. That’s just one possible scenario that could throw even promises made in good faith out the window without a document to hold them accountable.

What kind of things should you get in writing?

College costs vary considerably. Our local ivy league university, Yale, is going to cost a lot more than a state university – and prices of both are only going up. Therefore, unless your child’s only a couple of years away from college, you won’t be able to nail down the cost yet.

Nonetheless, you can codify things like:

  • What percentage of tuition, room and board you’ll each pay
  • Who will pay for things like books, meal plans, transportation and other expenses
  • Whether you’ll open a college savings account
  • Whether loans, scholarships and grant programs will be considered
  • Whether the choice of school has to be approved by both parents.

Regarding the last point, if you both have legal custody that lets you have a say in your child’s education, then you’d both have a say in their college choice – until your child turns 18).

It’s wise for both parents (or at least the parent paying support and perhaps the bulk of college costs) to have life and disability insurance to help ensure that their co-parent and child aren’t left struggling if they die or are unable to work. If a college education for your child is a priority, you want to do everything possible to help ensure that it becomes a reality. Rather than having to revisit the issue later, it’s best to do it now, while you have experienced legal guidance.