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Are Non-Custodial Parents Responsible for College Tuition in West Virginia?

There’s no shortage of challenges in a West Virginia divorce, and for many couples, children’s college funding is a source of contention. College expenses have increased dramatically in recent years, far outpacing income growth and making college inaccessible for a growing number of college students. It’s important, then, for couples to decide early on how they will cover their children’s college expenses. But there’s a difference between what parents would like to do and what they are legally obligated to do—and that distinction often comes up during divorce.

Learn more about parents’ obligations after divorce, and to discuss your divorce case in greater detail, call Pence Law Firm at 304-345-7250 and set up a consultation.

What the Law Says Regarding College Expenses

While some states have addressed college funding as it relates to divorce, West Virginia has no law on the books outlining a parent’s requirement to cover their child’s college expenses. When child support covers educational expenses, that relate to K-12 expenses, such as private school tuition, school fees, and school supplies.

This doesn’t mean that divorcing parents can’t be required to cover college expenses for their children; it means that divorce proceedings do not automatically require parents to cover their children’s college expenses, regardless of income. But you can still negotiate college funding as part of your divorce agreement, although you may have to give up considerable concessions to do so.

What if College Funding is Important to You?

Finding out that the court will not automatically require one or both parents to pay for children’s college costs can be disappointing, particularly if you’re in a situation where one spouse earns significantly more than the other. This is often the case in high-asset divorces. However, you do still have leverage. There is a lot of room for negotiation in divorce proceedings, and if college costs are a top priority for you, you can approach your divorce negotiations accordingly.

Parents are free to include specific provisions in their divorce settlement agreement. They may choose to require that each parent cover a specific percentage of college expenses, require that one or both parents contribute up to a certain amount each year, outline the specific expenses that are included, and specify how payments are to be made. Unless one or both parents are extraordinarily wealthy, it’s helpful to have a cap on how much either party can be expected to contribute each year—you never know how college costs may increase in coming years.

Navigating College Funding

If you want to ensure that your divorce agreement includes provisions for college funding, it’s important to discuss this with your Charleston divorce attorney as soon as possible. They can look at the assets and income of both spouses, determine the best approach for negotiating college funding, and decide on a strategy that’s most likely to result in a favorable outcome. However, don’t forget to consider your needs as you start this next stage of your life. While it’s important to provide for your children’s future needs, you don’t want to do so at the expense of your own financial stability and well-being.

What if you are unable to negotiate college funding during the divorce process? You may want to help your children plan ahead. On your end, you can look into a 529 college fund that provides you with tax advantages and sets aside money for college. Your child can begin looking for scholarships early on in their education and contribute winnings to their college savings. There are thousands of scholarships available for students, both on a national level and just within the state of West Virginia.

There are also other forms of financial aid that can help bridge the gap between college savings and final costs. Pell grants, forgivable loans, and other options can help your child attend school without excessive student debt.

Plan for Your Divorce with Pence Law Firm

The earlier you begin planning for your Charleston divorce, the more time your divorce attorney has to plan and negotiate on your behalf. Start now by setting up a time to talk to one of our experienced family law attorneys. Just call us at 304-345-7250 or reach out online now.