Are Parents Required to Pay for Their Children’s College Education?
Generally speaking, parents are not required to pay for their children’s college expenses in Colorado. While the courts typically cannot compel parents to pay for their child’s university costs, divorcing parents may still wish to contribute to their children’s college funds and post-secondary education.
Examples of common college expenses that parents may wish to cover:
- Room and board
Parents may also wish to help their children with expenses related to travel between school and home or the costs associated with extracurricular activities, sports, clubs, and travel abroad experiences.
It is a wonderful gift when parents can continue to help their children financially after high school and into college. But how do divorced parents go about this, especially when their children are still young and may not even know what they want to be when they grow up, let alone what university they will attend? Keep reading to find out.
Building College Savings into a Parenting Plan
The primary way divorcing parents deal with saving for their children’s college expenses is to include provisions in their parenting plan. For example, if the parents already have a college savings account set up, such as a 529 plan, they may note this plan in their parenting plan and outline how much each parent will be responsible for contributing each month or each year.
Other ways co-parents have decided to share college expenses include:
- The higher-earning parent is responsible for the full cost of the child’s college
- The non-custodial parent is responsible for the full cost of the child’s college
- One parent is responsible for tuition and fees while the other is responsible for room and board (or some other similar split where each parent takes responsibility for different aspects of their child’s college expenses)
- The financial responsibility is divided between the parents in a way that reflects the difference in their respective incomes
No matter how you plan to split the cost of college with your co-parent, it is a good idea to outline your plans in your parenting plan. This can help both parents understand their responsibilities and avoid future miscommunication.
Work with a Mediator
Putting provisions for university or vocational school expenses in your parenting plan is a great first step, but what should you do if you and your co-parent don’t agree on splitting the financial burden? Furthermore, what do you do when one parent believes they should help their child with college costs while the other thinks the child should be responsible? In cases where parents don’t agree on managing their child’s future college expenses, meeting with a licensed mediator may be helpful.
A mediator is a neutral third party who facilitates negotiations between two parties dealing with a legal dispute. When it comes to parenting plans and custody agreements, mediators can help parents with the entire parenting plan or just the areas in which the parents are struggling to agree, such as how to deal with college costs. The mediator does not make decisions for the parents, nor do they represent either party.
Before hiring a mediator, we recommend speaking with your attorney to discuss if mediation is a good idea for your situation.
Research Current Options
Parents who are unsure how to manage future college expenses post-divorce should also spend some time researching the cost of college, including in-state vs. out-of-state and public vs. private universities, and get a sense of how much college will potentially cost. They may then wish to speak with a financial advisor or accountant to help them understand their financial capacity to pay for their child’s college expenses post-divorce.
Divorce can be an expensive process, and both parents may find that their ability to pay for their children’s higher education is more limited than when they were married and sharing expenses. This information can be critical to helping parents realistically plan for the future.
Are you going through a divorce and looking for guidance on developing a parenting plan that includes college planning? Reach out to the Law Office of Greg Quimby, P.C. for guidance. Our team has extensive experience helping families from all backgrounds, including military families, and we can use our knowledge to help you, too.