How Divorced Parents Can Pay for Education

Written by Scott Benjamin

October 8, 2021

It can be a messy situation when ex-spouses have a child going off to college. Having to figure out the finances to make it work can be overwhelming and difficult. However, many divorced parents are able to work together to send their children off to college. At the end of the day, both parents want what is best for their children. Keep reading to see how divorced parents can pay for education.

Meet with your ex to discuss options

It is important to meet with your ex to discuss how both of you are best able to support your child’s college journey. Start off by expressing thoughts and expectations when it comes to your child’s education so you can spot your differences. Talk with each other and your child about how much money is saved for college, what your child’s goals are, and the goals you both have for your child.

Understand your state’s divorce laws

Divorce laws vary from state to state, but some can affect your college planning for your children. In some states, such as Texas and Virginia, there are zero requirements for both parents to pay if there is nothing specifically written in the divorce agreement. In other states, including South Carolina, you can take ex-spouse to court if your he or she is not willing to pay for any college expenses. Having knowledge and an understanding of the obligations for college expenses will assist in your college planning process.

Review your divorce agreement

Your divorce agreement will give you the opportunity to see if there is any obligation on either side or any plan already in place for paying for college education. Your agreement should include whether both parents must agree on which college the child attends, whether the parent paying child support can disagree with a child’s choice to attend a private university, and caps how much each parent must pay toward college expenses.

FAFSA Guidelines

FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid that assists college students in receiving financial aid to attend college. Currently, only the income and assets of the custodial parent are used on the FAFSA. The custodial parent is the parent that the child spends 183 days or more with per year. If the custodial parent has a new spouse, the stepparent’s income and assets are also included on the FAFSA. If you and your ex are separated and do not live together, you are treated as if you are divorced. If you and your ex live together and are separated or divorced, you are treated as still married.

It is important to be honest and open with your ex about how to pay for college education for your child. A financial advisor specializing in education can assist you and your ex with creating a plan to save and pay for college expenses. At Firethorn, we help you and your ex navigate this situation and create that plan! Give us a call today to get started.