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During a divorce, parents shouldn’t forget college expenses

Couples who decide to separate have many different topic areas to discuss and, hopefully, agree upon: division of property, child custody, support agreements, living arrangements and more. When divorcing parents are working out details involving their children, one area they may leave out is who pays for a child’s college education. However, experts say that parents in Massachusetts and elsewhere should include the answer to this question in their divorce decree, no matter the child’s age.

In fact, some states require that divorcing parents provide details in their divorce papers stipulating how they plan to pay for their offspring’s post-secondary education. Even if such information is not legally required, to avoid future conflict, parents are strongly encouraged to discuss and agree on each person’s financial obligation during their divorce negotiations. This applies even if college time is many years in the future and even if parents are not sure whether the child will choose to attend college.

Parents need to consider several points, say the experts. The college plan, financially speaking, should clearly indicate where the money will come from as well as expenses it is expected to cover – for example, tuition, books, room and board, etc. Divorcing parents are also advised to address possible scenarios such as the child taking a gap year or choosing to not attend college and to clearly indicate what happens to the college money in each case. Parents should also consider how their divorce, as well as remarriage on either side, will affect their child’s eligibility for financial aid.

Divorcing parents who plan ahead for their child’s college years will likely find this time, whenever it comes, much less stressful, at least from a financial standpoint, leaving them to enjoy this exciting time with their child. Many decisions need to be made at the time of divorce, but divorcing parents who take the time to discuss this one will reap the benefits later. An experienced Massachusetts family law attorney can help parents considering divorce understand this sometimes overwhelming process and work through the various decisions that need to be made, including those involving their children.

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