How To Handle College Funding for Children After A Divorce

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Orange County divorce lawyers; The Maggio Law FirmAccording to studies involving the topic of parental support towards higher education, it was found that around 29% of divorced parents provided college funding, while the figure was at 88% for intact families. Divorced parents also covered 42% of college cost, while intact families covered 77%.

This brings to light the question of whether divorced parents need to fund a child’s higher education expenses. In some states, the court has the right to rule in favor of parental funding for higher education even after a divorce. However, California is not one of those states. However, if there has been a written agreement guaranteeing funding, the courts in California do have the power to enforce it.

So, to put it simply, as a California parent who is divorced, you are not obligated to fund your child’s higher education. However, if you’re a parent who intends to do so and want your ex-spouse partner to do the same, you will need to come up with a legal agreement.

Here are a few tips to help you with that.

Negotiate with Your Partner during the Settlement

Discuss college funding with your partner while the settlement process is still on. Decide on how much you will allocate towards the fund and request your partner to do the same.  Though financial situations do change, having a legal agreement will serve as a reliable baseline from where you can start again.

If you’ve been saving or investing towards your child’s college fund, make sure you address it in your settlement as these savings/investments are seen as marital property. Similarly, if there is a 529 savings plan, speak to your ex-spouse and discuss how you both will address deposits/withdrawals post-divorce.

In general, it would be a good idea to freeze the account in order to prevent the ex-spouse from misusing the funds. In some cases, the Judge may divide the plan, enabling both partners to contribute equally.

Financial Aid

If your child is dependent on financial aid, the custodial parent is tasked with filling the FAFSA forms. However, it isn’t so simple when the custody situation is still at play.  The custodial parent’s pay is factored in when deciding the child’s eligibility.

So, both partners need to come to an agreement if they don’t want to risk denying their child financial aid. An agreement made in advance can save a lot of trouble.

Getting divorced in California can be complicated.  Download our free eBook, 18 Important Things to Know About California Divorce to educate yourself on the process.  

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