August 25, 2016 | Share
How Should I Address My Children’s College Costs in My Divorce?
If you get divorced, will your former spouse be obligated to help pay for your children’s college tuition and expenses? For any couple with children, this is a crucial question, and one that unfortunately often gets overlooked during the divorce process.
Before we get into our discussion of dividing responsibility for children’s college costs in a divorce, it is important to acknowledge two key issues that come into play: (i) in Texas, child support orders generally do not cover college-related expenses; and, (ii) if you and your spouse established a college savings plan, it is most likely in the name of one spouse only, not both.
Dividing College Obligations in a Texas Divorce
So, if you can’t rely on child support and your spouse may be the sole owner of your children’s college fund (in which case your spouse would also have sole control, and would be able liquidate the account at any time, subject to penalties), what can you do to avoid shouldering the burden of college on your own? The answer, in most cases, is to negotiate an agreement regarding responsibility for college tuition and expenses during your divorce.
Just like the other financial aspects of a divorce, separating spouses can enter into a legally-binding agreement regarding who will pay what portion of their children’s college costs. As long as the agreement is fully negotiated and willfully entered into between two spouses who each have their own experienced legal representation, it will generally be respected by the Texas courts.
But, the courts need to know what they are enforcing; and, as a soon-to-be former spouse, you want to make sure that your soon-to-be ex’s obligations are as clear as possible. As a result, it is critical to clearly and comprehensively outline the terms of your agreement. This means that it should answer questions such as:
- Does your agreement cover private school tuition, or public school only? What about out-of-state tuition at a public university?
- Does your agreement cover room and board? Books? Meal plans? Other living expenses?
- Will you and your spouse be required to place funds in an escrow or trust account? Or, will you each be independently responsible for saving the necessary funds? In either case, how and when will payments be made?
- Will you maintain the funds for your children’s college indefinitely? Or, will you and your spouse’s respective obligations end once your children reach a certain age?
- Will your children be required to maintain a certain grade point average (GPA) or meet other requirements or milestones in order to have their college expenses covered?
This is just a small sampling of the types of issues you will want to be sure to address in your agreement. Also, remember that this agreement will just be one aspect of the overall division of your community property and the establishment of you and your spouse’s respective ongoing financial responsibilities. Protecting your interests in a divorce almost invariably involves a balancing act, and you will want to make sure that you have fully explored your options for securing you and your children’s future finances as much as possible.
Questions? Schedule a Free Consultation with a Divorce Lawyer at Nordhaus Walpole PLLC
For more information about making sure that your spouse will contribute to your children’s college expenses after your divorce, please contact us for a free, confidential consultation. To speak with an experienced McKinney divorce lawyer at our office, call (214) 726-1450 or request a free consultation online today.
Categories: Family Law & Divorce