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Divorce and Your Children’s College Funding

Figuring out your divorce is one of the hardest things you’ll ever go through. Not only do you have to consider your and your children’s immediate needs, but you also have to plan for needs that are still years away. For example, college funding—the cost of college has risen far more quickly than pay levels in recent decades, forcing parents to save an ever-larger portion of their income to pay for their children’s education if they don’t want them to rely on student loans. Figuring out who’s responsible for what is especially hard during a divorce.

Wondering how to protect your children’s best interests as you negotiate your divorce? Choose the team at Pence Law Firm for your divorce case. Give us a call at 304-345-7250 to set up a consultation with our team of Charleston divorce attorneys.

Negotiations During Divorce

A big part of your divorce is negotiating. You’ll negotiate everything from the family home and your retirement accounts to child custody and child support.

You may wonder how paying for college plays into that. Some states do require parents to fund their children’s post-secondary education as part of their divorce agreement. However, West Virginia is not one of those states. You cannot demand extra money in child support to cover college expenses, nor is either party required to contribute to their children’s college expenses.

However, this doesn’t mean you don’t have any options. Almost anything can be negotiated in divorce, and if your children’s college plans are a top priority for you, you can advocate for them. Be aware that you may have to give up other assets or make other sacrifices if you want your ex-partner to contribute to your children’s college fund. For example, you may agree to a smaller share of the marital assets or take less money in alimony to ensure that your children’s educational needs are met.

Saving for College for Your Children

There are several different ways you can contribute to your children’s college accounts. One popular option is 529 plans. These types of college savings accounts have tax benefits, and they can only be accessed for approved educational expenses. This protects both parties from unauthorized withdrawals and ensures that the child can only access the money for their college needs. In many cases, both parents make contributions throughout their little one’s childhood to get the account to where it needs to be by graduation. But if one partner outlearns the other by a significant amount, it may make sense for one parent to pay for college in its entirety.

Legal Concerns

Divorce is rarely easy, but with a little bit of planning and patience from both parties, you can navigate these issues with minimal stress. First, do your best to keep the lines of communication open. You both want what is best for your children, it’s just a matter of coming to an agreement about what that means.

It’s best to protect yourself from every possible negative outcome in scenarios like this. For example, some divorcing couples opt to create a joint savings account to which they both contribute money for their children’s college. This may make sense to you if you believe you can trust your ex-spouse not to touch it. That doesn’t change the fact that legally, both parties can withdraw from the account at any time. Right now, you trust your ex-spouse not to misuse your child’s money—but you never want to find yourself in the position of checking on your child’s college account and finding it empty. Contributing to a fund that can only be accessed by the child for educational purposes is the best way to protect everyone involved.

You should also be aware that college savings agreements require additional communication with your ex-spouse. If you’re in a high-conflict divorce and you want to limit communication as much as possible, a college savings account may just be another way for your ex to contact you.

Protect Your and Your Children’s Future with Pence Law Firm

When you’re ready to move forward with your divorce, make sure you have an attorney you can trust. The team at Pence Law Firm is committed to helping you plan for the next chapter of your life. Call us at 304-345-7250 or reach out online to set up a consultation now.