Parents of high school seniors have spent the past few years paying for ACT and SAT study books and classes, as well as the tests, and have recently been learning the intricacies of FAFSA. Students have been testing, writing essays, applying to colleges, and considering which school to attend. If you have divorced during these years, you may have been surprised at how much money it takes to get through the college application process, and you may have been pleasantly or terribly surprised at how co-parenting works during this time.
Parents divorcing may not consider college and all of its expenses when deciding what to discuss with their lawyers, but it’s an important thing to consider. If you don’t take the time to try to divide the financial responsibilities, one parent may carry the financial burden. During the college years, parents send money to help cover expenses, take on debt for tuition, and buy costly books and supplies. You and your former spouse need to look at who can afford which costs and decide to split these expenses in a way that reflects what each of you can reasonably afford. If one of you makes far more than the other, be generous. You aren’t volunteering money to your spouse, you are parenting, and parenting well when you take on any extra and warranted responsibility. A fair split isn’t always 50/50.
If you have already divorced, work together for your children. College is a stressful transition period for young people. The college years are an odd mix of childhood and adulthood, fun and maturation. Help your child by supporting them in reasonable ways, working as well as you are able with your ex to treat the college years as you did the years where you fed, clothed, and paid for activities such as art lessons, ballet, basketball, gymnastics, soccer, etc.
Hopefully, you can co-parent so successfully during the younger years, that college and it’s extra expenses won’t stress your relationship. College has become a natural step for most students graduating from high school. Working with your former spouse to guarantee your child has as little debt as possible when they do graduate college is one of the most valuable gifts you can give her/him.
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