• Negotiating College Costs as Part of Your Divorce
  • August 8, 2017
  • In the United States, one out of two marriages end in divorce, and if you’re one of those families, you know that divorce affects every person involved — not just the parents. Divorce is multifaceted, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed when working out the financial logistics, especially negotiating your settlement agreement. Dividing assets, managing expenses related to daycare, life insurance, health insurance, school and extracurricular activities, the list goes on when determining how you’ll allocate your finances when you get divorced. And if college is on the horizon for your children, it may be tempting to postpone making the financial decision about how and who will pay for college until your child gets older. But as the saying goes, nobody plans to fail, they simply fail to plan.

    In New Jersey, the courts have long held that a divorced parent may be required to contribute towards the costs of college. But, unlike child support, there is no formula for calculating the exact amount parents must contribute. Just like divorce itself, determining whether a parent has an obligation to pay, as well as how much they need to contribute is considered based on plenty of factors. Before you head to court for a hearing or argue your way through a plan, get in the know about what you need to know about divorce. More specifically, what judges consider when allocating funds for college contribution in divorced families:

    • First, judges consider whether the parent (if still living with the child) would have contributed toward the costs of the requested higher education if the divorce never happened.
    • Next, judges consider what effect the parent’s background values and goals have on the expectation of the child for higher education, as these things influence all parties involved.
    • Of course, the dollar amount sought by the child for higher education comes in to play alongside the ability of the parent(s) to pay that cost.
    • Pay close attention to the how’s and why’s of college expenses — consider the kind of school your child hopes to attend, and the course of study sought.
    • The financial resources of both parents are also put under scrutiny, as well as the financial resources of the child, including assets owned themselves or in a trust.
    • Examine the commitment and ability of the child to the schooling they request — this should be top of mind, no matter what.
    • Evaluate if your child will be able to earn income during the school year or vacation time that will aid in the cost of their schooling.
    • Determine the availability of financial aid in the form of college grants and loans for your child, in addition to any out-of-pocket expenses.
    • Understand the relationship between parent and child — do they have mutual affection and shared goals? Is the child responsive to advice and guidance?
    • In addition to the prior points, consider how this education will aid in obtaining your child’s long-term goals? This point should serve as the foundation of every aspect of decision making—from picking schools to income earned and spent.

    With divorce comes major change for everyone involved. It’s never easy, but there are steps you can take to make the process run as smoothly as possible. Coming up with a plan is always beneficial, regardless of how near or far college may be for your child (or children). While you negotiate your settlement agreement, never negotiate your child’s future.

    Post Polak’s family lawyers know how intimidating it can be to prepare for funding college expenses during — what can be — a complicated divorce process. Our team of professionals have decades of experience in family law, so you can have access to information that will save you time and money when negotiating college compensation in a divorce agreement.

    Of course, college compensation shouldn’t only fall on you — setting parameters for your child regarding his or her own college expenses can be beneficial and is vital to some parents.