Paying for a child's college when going through a divorce

Going through the divorce process while having a child who is preparing to go to college can make the situation more difficult. However, having a financial plan on how to pay for college on top of the changing finances could help.

On average, college tuition and associated fees are increasing 3 percent every year. While many parents are dedicated to helping their child with these rising costs, going through the divorce process essentially means that parents go from trying to afford one household to paying for two. In some cases, this may mean that the parents can no longer provide the funds for college. In these instances, the child might switch his or her school preferences or look for financial aid options.

Even if a divorce is not on the horizon, parents may help plan for the increasing costs of college. One way that parents can begin putting away money is to start a 529 plan. This type of plan allows parents to ear-mark specific funds for educational uses only. When a child uses the funds that have been saved for appropriate education-related expenses, the money can be used tax-free. During a divorce, the funds that are for education can be left alone when looking at property division.

A noncustodial parent may suddenly be facing spousal support payments and child support payments on top of having to pay for separate housing following divorce proceedings. This change in finances may prevent the noncustodial parent from being able to help with college. While the other parent may want this further assistance, a court cannot require a parent to pay for additional education if he or she cannot afford it. A family law attorney may provide financial statements and other documents that show what the parent is earning.

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