Posted on behalf of Jeffrey N. Greenblatt of Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, PA
People in Maryland may have seen a recent editorial about the importance of planning for children’s college tuition, even when parents are divorced. Divorce may force a lot of compromises in a family, but most parents would never want to compromise their children’s future by not being able to send them to college.
In a child custody dispute, most parents worry feverishly about how to manage the day-to-day needs of the kids while undergoing such a major family transition. While parents worry about the best interests of the child in the immediate sense, unfortunately that doesn’t always leave them with enough time or energy to deal with longer-term issues. But with a little extra attention to these issues, parents could see big rewards in the long run.
The best thing divorcing parents can do for their children’s higher education prospects is start planning for the financial burden of college expenses during the divorce settlement process. Even if the children are very young at the time of the divorce, the odds are that eventually the issue of college expenses are going to come into play. This could mean even bigger headaches down the road if the parents do not work out some kind of agreement as to who will be responsible for what share of these expenses during the divorce itself.
One thing parents can do is set up an account exclusively for the purposes of college tuition. There are special college education funds, such as a 529 plan, that provide tax benefits and also ensure that the money can only be spent for that particular purpose. Otherwise, parents could face friction if money earmarked for college winds up covering legal expenses or other day-to-day expenses. For these reasons and many more, parents have every incentive to talk with an experienced family law attorney about getting a plan for college tuition in place as part of their divorce settlement.
Source: Reuters, “CORRECTED-YOUR MONEY – Three things divorced parents need to know about college,” Geoff Williams, March 3, 2014