Whether your child is already in high school or is much younger, you and your spouse may have clear plans for his or her college education. No matter how you plan and save, however, you will likely still have unexpected expenses to consider when the time comes.
One major event which may complicate these plans is a divorce. Texas does not have specific rules for handling the payment of college tuition in a support or asset division settlement, but you may not want to leave this important consideration to chance.
If your child plans to apply for financial aid, you will have several factors to think about. First, only information from the custodial parent, the parent with whom the child lives most of the time, is necessary on the FAFSA financial aid forms. If the court grants you custody of the child or if the child lives with you more days than with your ex, you will be the one completing the applications for financial aid, and your income will determine the child’s eligibility.
Honesty when completing a FAFSA is important, and your child’s college administrator has the right to request documentation to prove that you are in fact the custodial parent. Also, it is good to know that if you are awarded the child’s pre-existing 529 college savings plan during your divorce’s asset division, you will have to consider whether that will affect your child’s eligibility for financial aid.
Other factors to consider
You and your spouse may come to an easy agreement about who will pay for which aspects of your child’s college education, or you may have to accept the order of the court. However, there are a few more things to keep in mind:
- Try to think of every possible factor when negotiating how to divide college costs.
- Tuition and room and board are only the beginning; your child will need books, a laptop, a cell phone, meal plan and other expenses.
- You may also wish to decide now what expenses you will not pay, such as an unnecessarily expensive apartment instead of a dorm room.
- Texas law requires child support through age 18 and high school graduation, but you and your ex can agree to extend that through your child’s college graduation.
Your plan for your child should not overlook contingencies such as your child desiring to take a gap year or to skip college altogether. In fact, there may be many other factors involved in determining how to share responsibility for your child’s college education. An experienced Board-certified Family Law expert attorney in Collin County, Dallas County, Denton County, Midland County, Ector County, or elsewhere throughout Texas can offer guidance to help keep your child’s future on track.