Paying for College After a Divorce

If you’re navigating a divorce, immediate concerns like financing and duration likely preoccupy you. Yet, another critical query emerges: post-divorce, how will you and your ex-spouse divide college expenses? Can a judge order a parent to pay for college? Whether your child is in high school or younger, proactive planning becomes paramount to prevent potential future conflicts.

College Tuition Costs: Who Pays?

When your child receives college acceptance letters, it’s a joyous moment. However, if you’re a divorced parent, it can bring anxiety. Instead of working together with your child’s other parent to pay for college, you must rely on a court order or informal agreement with your ex-spouse.

In most cases, child support is ordered until your child turns 18 or graduates high school. The big question is whether you or your ex-spouse have an obligation to pay for your child’s education beyond high school and can a judge order you as a parent to pay for college.

Check Your Court Order for College Payment Obligations

Your Final Decree of Divorce contains orders regarding your responsibility, or your spouse’s, to pay for your child’s college costs. There are currently no laws that mandate parents to pay for their children’s educational expenses after high school, so your divorce decree dictates what a court can enforce if an issue arises.

Typically, your final divorce orders result from mediation rather than a judge’s decision. You and your ex-spouse work out your differences with a mediator’s assistance, and the terms become part of your divorce decree.

If you and your ex-spouse negotiated an agreement on paying for college, the money is often placed in a trust fund or similar account until your child needs it.

Structuring Your Settlement Language for College Savings

In addition to child support, your divorce decree should have clear language regarding college costs and savings. Specify the percentage of costs you and your spouse are responsible for, list other covered expenses, and outline payment terms and schedules.

Upfront Payments vs. Recurrent Payments

To avoid making recurring payments for college expenses, it’s wise to save a significant amount of money early in your child’s educational journey. This may require more time to recover financially from the divorce but ensures your share of college expenses is covered early.

Consider investing your child’s college savings in a 529 account or a similar investment account. In Texas, the Texas Tomorrow Fund (TTF) is a popular option. The TTF allows investors to select their investment based on the child’s age. Younger children can afford more aggressive investments, while those close to college age should be more conservative.

In summary, divorce brings more than just immediate concerns. Figuring out how to split college costs is crucial, and it’s important to plan ahead to avoid problems later on. Whether your child is in high school or younger, thinking ahead helps prevent future conflicts and makes co-parenting smoother after the divorce.

If you have concerns about college costs in your family after a divorce, don’t hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We offer free consultations with our licensed family law attorneys.


Adobe Stock 62844981[2]If you want to know more about what you can do, CLICK the button below to get your FREE E-book: 16 Steps to Help You Plan & Prepare for Your Texas Divorce

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  5. In Texas are Child Support and Visitation Connected?
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  7. Texas Child Support – Trust and Annuities
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