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How Will Divorce Impact My Child’s College Education?

By Rebecca L. Robison August 29, 2019

Family Law

Will Divorce Impact my Child’s College Education?

It is no secret that divorce impacts the entire family, not just the spouses. When negotiating the divorce settlement, you try to keep the best interests of your children in mind. Even when children are young, you may be thinking about how your divorce will impact your child’s college education. This is something you should consider when negotiating your settlement. An experienced family law attorney can help advise you of your options.

Child Support

In North Carolina, college expenses are not ordered by the court as part of a support obligation. Legally, the court will consider these expenses your child’s obligation. When your child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever happens last, an obligation to pay child support will end.

By Agreement

However, if you and your ex can agree, the court will allow you to add college expenses as a provision to the divorce settlement. In the agreement you can specify who will pay the child’s higher education costs. The more specific you are in the agreement, the less chance there will be for disputes later on.
Be sure to specify the percentage of expenses that each parent will pay and whether it is for tuition only or all college related expenses. You may want to also consider putting a cap on the number of years or the age at which contribution stops. You may also want to put limits on tuition, the cost of in-state tuition vs. out-of-state tuition, a public university or private university, etc. Be sure to include reimbursement for attorney fees if one party fails to follow the terms of the contract.

If college costs are added to the divorce agreement and your ex fails to pay what was agreed upon, your child will be able to sue your ex for breach of contract because the child is the third-party beneficiary. If your child is a minor at the time of the breach, you will be able to file the lawsuit. As long as the court finds in your favor, the judge will enter an Order for Specific Performance that requires your ex to complete the obligations of the settlement. If they still fail to pay, they could be held in contempt of court.

529 Plan

An additional option for paying college expenses for your child is for both parents to contribute to a 529 plan that will be used for your child’s education. A specific percentage of income or a set amount can be ordered for each parent to pay. If your child does not pursue a college education, you will need to specify in the agreement what will happen to those funds.

Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney Today

Going through a divorce is never easy, even under the best circumstances. If you are facing a divorce, contact the attorneys at Helms, Robison, Lee & Bennett, P.A. today to schedule a consultation. We will guide you through the process and ensure that things go as smoothly as possible.

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