Planning for College Expenses Post Divorce
College is expensive no matter which way you look at it, and even on two incomes, families struggle to support themselves while funding a higher education. In typical fashion, divorce makes things even more complicated. In a family untouched by divorce, there is never a question of who should pay for all college-related expenses—both parents assume the shared responsibility without hesitation. However, for whatever reason, many divorced individuals feel that they should not have to fund their child’s continued education. Whether it is because he or she paid child support throughout the child’s entire childhood and so they feel as if their financial obligation is done, or whether it is because they feel as if it is the other parent’s responsibility, our Boca Raton family law attorneys have helped countless clients deal with this exact issue. Thanks to our experience, we can provide invaluable insight and advice should you find yourself thinking about college expenses.
Planning for College Prior to Divorce
When a couple divorces later in a child’s life—for instance, when the child is 16 and already in the process of applying for schools—college is on the forefront of their minds, and therefore, is an issue that they address in the divorce agreement. Unfortunately, when a divorce occurs early in a child’s life, the two parties typically do not have such foresight. Lack of any provisions regarding college support makes it difficult for an individual to seek legal remedies when the other parent refuses to help with college payments.
If you and your significant other are in the midst of a divorce and if you have children, the smartest thing you can do is to discuss possible college expenses and how they should be split. Once you agree to terms, ensure that they are included in your final divorce agreement.
However, if your divorce is already final and if you did not hash out the details of college funding prior to signing the divorce papers, review your Florida divorce settlement, your child custody agreement, and your child support orders for any of the following:
- “The Issue is Reserved.” When a judge “reserves an issue” it simply means that he or she leaves the issue up to the discretion of both parents. If any of your final divorce documents say that the issue of each party’s obligation to contribute to college is reserved, you do not have much legal ground to stand on. However, you can file a petition with the court, and if the judge agrees that your former spouse should help fund your child’s college education, relief will be granted only back to the date of the filing of the petition.
- “Respective Financial Abilities.” If any of your divorce documents state something along the lines of, “Each party must contribute to college expenses based on their respective financial abilities,” then the petitioning party may seek retroactive contribution, as both parties already agreed to contribute to college expenses.
- “A Child’s Rights to College.” If any of your agreements specifically state that your child has a right to a college education, and that it is each parent’s responsibility to make that right possible, then the parties’ obligation to contribute to college expenses has already been ordered. If one party refuses to contribute, all the petitioning party has to do is to bring the provision to the attention of the judge, and he or she will ensure that it is enforced.
Consult a Boca Raton Divorce Lawyer
If your child is on the brink of going to college, and if you are having trouble seeking contribution from your child’s other parent, consult with the support attorneys at the Law Offices of Schwartz | White. Our Boca Raton lawyers can help review the specifics of each of your divorce documents for any clauses that stipulate that both parties must contribute. If there is no such clause, we can help you file a successful petition for retroactive contribution. Give our office a call at 561.391.9943 to schedule a private consultation today.