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Paying for a child's tuition: What divorced parents need to know

Sending kids off to college can be an emotional ordeal. After all, nowadays, college is considered one of the first steps towards adulthood. 

However, college can also be as expensive as it is emotional. The expenses vary by the type of college students choose. But according to a recent survey by the College Board, total college expenses can range between more than $17,000 and $50,000. 

Students fresh out of high school often cannot afford to attend college on their own. So, many parents end up assisting their children through their higher education. However, how does this financial assistance work for divorced parents?

Are college expenses included in child support?

In some states, family courts do not consider college students to be "emancipated" adults yet. Therefore, divorced parents might still be responsible for covering college expenses in a form of child support.

This is not necessarily the case in Virginia. Virginia courts cannot order divorced parents to divide college expenses as a form of child support.

How to help pay is often up to parents

However, parents can choose to establish an agreement that would divide the costs between them equitably based on similar factors of child support, including:

  • The specific college expenses
  • Each parent's income and ability to pay
  • The child's financial needs

Choosing to divide these expenses as if they were child support can help parents avoid guilt trips and family conflicts in the future.

Keep in mind: Federal student aid considers parents' marital status 

Each year, many students apply for federal student aid to help them through college. These applications include questions regarding the parents' marital status. Providing this information can help individualize the financial assistance each student will receive.

Earning more student aid can significantly ease the strain that divorced parents might face when it comes time to pay tuition.

We understand that navigating finances in life is already difficult. It can become even more so after a divorce. But the attorneys at Bowen Ten Cardani, PC, can help Virginia families understand their options when determining support payments and protecting their finances.

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