Dannenbaum Law Firm, PLLC

Challenges in saving for college after divorce

Virginia parents who are ending their marriage might be concerned about how it will affect their ability to save for their child's college education. With the expense of maintaining two households instead of one and concerns about child and spousal support, paying for college may become less of a priority. However, with tuition continuing to rise, it may be important to think about how to afford it.

Parents who have planned on their children attending expensive private colleges may need to look at state schools instead. It is generally not possible to force the other parent to pay an extremely high tuition or for graduate school. Usually, if the divorce agreement addresses college savings, it is generally limited to five years. Parents might want to look into what kind of opportunities may be offered by scholarships, grants and loans.

In some families, there may be a 529 plan that allows them to save for education tax free. Withdrawals from a 529 plan are also tax free as long as they are used for education. The 529 owner, usually one of the parents, is allowed to make withdrawals or change the beneficiary, so including the purpose of the 529 plan in the divorce agreement may be a good idea.

During this time, parents may want to try to minimize disruption to their children's lives. In addition to trying to keep college plans on track, they may want to try to work out a schedule for custody and visitation that suits the child and minimizes the conflict the child is exposed to. Alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation, may be helpful in reaching an agreement. Going to court is also an option, but this takes control out of parents' hands and can also be more expensive.

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