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How to tackle college tuition after a divorce

There is a common conception of how expensive divorce is. Between attorneys, asset division and court fees, it makes sense that divorce drains more than your wallet and emotions.

Unfortunately, divorce completely changes how you view finances. It’s especially tricky for parents who have to support themselves and children in the process. There is also a lingering question about your child’s future: how will I pay for my child’s education?

Establish an agreement

While Pennsylvania courts set arrangements for homes, child custody and other assets, it cannot state who is in charge of college tuition. If you want to make a legal agreement surrounding college during your divorce, you can include the tuition payments in a divorce settlement agreement.

It essentially puts you and your former significant other in a binding document to either split the costs of tuition or place a specific amount of funds in an escrow or trust account for your child’s education. It’s best to establish the agreement first instead of waiting until college applications start rolling in.

Consider financial aid

If you cannot do an escrow or trust, your child could apply for financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The application allows the student to list a “custodial parent.” And depending on the custodial parent, the student may receive more or less assistance.

To determine the custodial parent, FAFSA only wants to know which parent the child lived with more over the last year. If they spent more time in your home, they would list you as the custodial parent and your former partner as “parent 2.”

It makes a significant difference for some students and minor changes for others. It depends on the difference in income between you and your former spouse and your ability to pay back those loans in the case your child can’t.

Plan as much as you can

The most critical aspect of tackling college tuition is preparation. You may find a different strategy that works best for your family and allows your student to live the full college experience. But you won’t know that strategy without proper planning.

More planning allows you to balance tuition, typical maintenance costs and still enjoy your life as a single parent. If you are concerned that your former spouse won’t help your student, consider working with representation to include higher education costs in your divorce settlement. It helps you and your child.

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