Navigating the college selection process and funding a child’s college education can be stressful for all parents, but can be especially stressful for parents who are divorced. Fortunately, divorced or separated parents can minimize the stress associated with college preparation through proper planning, open communication, and the involvement of both parents.
Understand the Financial Obligation
Illinois is one of the few states that recognizes the obligation of divorced parents to contribute to their child’s college education. While both parents have this obligation, the amount each must contribute need not be equal. The Illinois courts will consider all relevant factors, including, but not limited to, the financial resources of both parents, the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved, the financial resources of the child, and the child’s academic performance.
Proactively Plan for College Expenses
Addressing higher education expenses in the divorce agreement is essential. A college support agreement should specify exactly what expenses will be covered, and what percentage of those expenses each parent and the child will be responsible for.
Embrace the Process
The selection of a college or university is often one of the first important decisions a child will make when moving into adulthood. Although a college choice is emotional for any student, it is especially vital for divorced parents to put the focus on their child and not on personal differences. It is beneficial for parents to openly discuss their budget and how their financial resources will impact their child’s choice of college. Children will benefit if both parents are able to work cooperatively with each other.
Through open communication and rational expectations, divorced and separating parents can create a plan to support their child throughout the college career as well as achieving their own critical personal and financial goals.