Did You Think about College When Making Plans about the Children?

If you have children, they may be at the center of your divorce. You may concentrate all your efforts on making sure that the coming lifestyle changes go as smoothly as possible for them and that they continue to have access to each parent as much as possible.

Perhaps you feel as though you covered all of the bases, especially for the short term and the near future. However, you may need to take it one step further and consider what happens when each child reaches college age. Nowadays, many states want you to think about college tuition and even make some sort of arrangements for it when you divorce.

Maintain control over this decision

Even if college is years away for your children, you may want to at least address the issue now and put something in writing regarding it. If you fail to negotiate an agreement on this matter outside the courtroom, a judge may be the one making the decision for you either now or in the future.

In addition to retaining the control regarding who makes the decisions, you also have the opportunity to put your agreements into writing in plain and concise language that does not leave any room for debate regarding your intentions in the years to come. You could even specify what expenses any money set aside for college could cover.

Cover as many bases as possible

It’s not enough to think about setting aside money for college. You also need to address other scenarios. For example, can your child use the money set aside for qualified college expenses for anything, or must it be for college only? Could your child use it to travel for a while after high school? Could he or she use it to buy a vehicle?

You may also want to look at the ability of each of your children to obtain financial aid if necessary. Will the decisions you make today affect financial aid? If you plan to use a 529 plan to save up money, be sure that it remains in the name of the parent considered the custodial parent or the child, so that it receives the proper tax treatment, and that the maximum amount of funds from the account will go to your child for college when the time comes.

Since different rules may apply at different times in your children’s lives, it may be a good idea to discuss the question of college not only with the other parent, but also with an experienced family law attorney. He or she can help you reach an agreement that benefits your children but does not strip you of your future rights as well.

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