Getting divorced is seldom easy or a decision that isn’t given much thought. This is particularly true when there are minor children involved. However, if you’ve decided that a split is for the best, there will now be more decisions to be made. One of these will likely include financial planning for your child’s college education. Here are some things you should know about doing so during your Virginia divorce.
The Judge Can’t Make You
No matter what your spouse says, the family law judge cannot require you to pay for your kid’s college tuition. The court can enforce a prenuptial agreement or other agreement you have with your spouse that says you will pay for college. However, without such a contract, no one is required to pay.
What If We Agree To Pay?
If you and/or your spouse do agree to pay for some or all of your child’s college expenses, you must be sure you know exactly what you are agreeing to. This will require negotiations with your spouse as to what bills should be paid for. Do you want to cover just tuition, or all expenses (room/board, books, supplies, entertainment)? Do you want to split these costs? Do you want to pay tuition and have your spouse pay the other expenses, or vice versa? All of these questions must be answered.
Once they are, you must then make sure that your marital settlement agreement is written to reflect only what you agreed upon. Ask your attorney any questions if you do not understand the language of your agreement or if you think it says something different. Once you sign the contract, it will be legally binding and extremely difficult to get out of.
What About The Child?
Though providing an education is undeniably a generous and responsible thing to do, you may not support every life decision your child makes. For this reason, you may want to consider placing restrictions on the obligation to pay for college expenses, like whether your child decides to go to a certain school or set of schools, or only if they study a certain discipline. Or, maybe you will only agree to pay if your child maintains a specific minimum grade point average (GPA). If you fail to include these things in your agreement, you will not be able to use them as an excuse not to pay later.
Consider Your Other Savings And Resources
There can be no question that financial circumstances may change, sometimes suddenly and unexpectedly. This is why it is so important to carefully consider now how much you want to be obligated to pay in the future. Though your agreement may be modified later if it contains important language and you can demonstrate a material change in circumstances, this standard is incredibly hard to prove – particularly if your reason for modification could have been predicted when you signed the agreement to pay for college.
Accordingly, you should consider what other savings and financial resources you have at your disposal now, and those you should have in the future, before tying yourself down. You can always contribute more to your child’s expenses when they are in school and you have the cash in hand.
Planning for your child’s future is just one of the many considerations that can complicate divorce. If you are considering divorce or currently going through one, the qualified family law attorneys at the DiPietro Family Law Group are here to help you. The family law attorneys at the DiPietro Family Law Group have decades of experience with all family law issues in jurisdictions across Northern Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC.
Contact us today for a consultation at (888) 530-4374.