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Negotiating your child’s college education in your divorce

On Behalf of | Dec 12, 2023 | Divorce

Regardless of how old they are at the time of your divorce, one of the most important things you need to keep in mind is their post-secondary education.

The average cost of college in the United States right now is $36,436 per year, including a student’s living expenses, books and various supplies – and it can go much higher. How do you make sure that their future is protected? Here are some tips:

Understand the limitations of support

In Wisconsin, child support ends either when a child turns 18 years of age (unless they’re still pursuing a high school diploma or its equivalent, in which case support can continue until they’re 19). That means that there’s no statutory obligation for either parent to provide for a child’s college education – but divorcing parents are still free to negotiate and make private contracts over the issue.

Get the agreement in writing

Even if you think there should be plenty of money for your child’s education, you don’t want to put your trust in a verbal agreement. Your ex-spouse and your child could have a falling out during your child’s teen years and your ex-spouse could suddenly refuse to pay. Or, your ex-spouse could remarry, start a second family and decide that they simply can’t afford college for your child because of their other children’s needs.

Decide how the money will be paid

Addressing the logistics now can help make the future more certain. A lump sum put away now as part of your divorce agreement can be invested, or payments can be put into a revocable trust or a 529 college savings plan.

Talk about any limitations or caps

You need to address as many possibilities as you can in your agreement. For example, what happens if your child wants to go to an expensive private college instead of a public university? Are you willing to pay for graduate school or professional education, like a medical degree or law degree? What happens if your child decides they don’t want to attend college?

In a high-asset divorce, the financial issues often take on new layers of complexity. You have to think ahead. Qualified legal guidance can help ensure that you don’t overlook anything important.