Planning for your child’s college expenses as you divorce

female college graduate with parents

Whether you’re divorcing when your child is still a toddler or they’re in high school, you don’t want the end of your marriage to interfere with their college opportunities. 

If you and your soon-to-be-ex are both committed to continuing to save for your child’s college education, it’s best to work out an agreement during your divorce. This way, you have legal guidance and you can detail and codify your expectations so there’s a better chance you’ll follow through on the savings plan.

Dividing the costs

Parents who are no longer together can find a fair way to split the cost of college. Of course, how you divide this will depend on each parent’s income and other assets.

Often, both parents agree to contribute a set amount or percentage to an account regularly. Whether you set up (or already have) a 529 plan or other savings account specifically for your child’s education, you can agree to each contribute a certain amount on a monthly or perhaps quarterly basis. You can agree to a particular dollar amount or percentage of income. 

How much should you plan to save?

If you haven’t already, you may want to discuss whether you plan to fund your child’s entire college education or just a portion of it. Some divorcing parents agree to each pay for a third and expect their child to come up with another third through student loans or scholarships. Sometimes, there’s a grandparent or other family member who has established a trust to help with college. 

Determining your ultimate savings goal is another big question – particularly if college is many years away. It’s only going to get more expensive. Further, you may not know yet whether your child is Stanford material or they’ll be lucky to be accepted at a community college. What some co-parents do is set a savings goal for the current tuition (and possibly room and board) of an in-state public university. That amount can be adjusted periodically as the costs increase.

Of course, your child could decide to forego college and try to make it as an actor. They may end up having a talent for art and decide to design surfboards. Life is unpredictable. However, at least you and your co-parent will have a plan in place to help your child when they’re ready to leave both of your nests.


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