Divorce requires a crystal ball to peer into the future and address issues such as your child’s college expenses. Michigan restricts the duration of child support but parents can include college costs in their divorce settlement.
How costly is this?
This issue comes with a price. The yearly cost of an average state college was $25,290 and for a private college was $50,900 for the 2017-2018 academic year and is likely to shoot up in the future.
In Michigan, child support typically ends when a child reaches 18. A judge, however, may order support to continue for a child who is between 18 and 19½ if the child is a full time high school student, has a reasonable expectation of graduating and lives full-time with a parent that receives child support or at an institution.
Can these costs be negotiated?
Divorce settlement negotiations is the time to raise this issue. Otherwise, a spouse may have to go to court to seek an order which can be costly, frustrating, and unsuccessful.
Any agreement to pay college costs should be specific and in writing. In addition to being unreasonably vague, a verbal agreement is ineffective and may be ignored if the paying spouse remarries, loses their job, or decides to pay partial costs or tuition for lower-priced colleges.
What should be in the agreement?
The settlement should identify the costs that each parent pays. Parents may agree to an equal split or that one spouse will cover tuition and the other spouse will pay for room and board. Payment for books, travel, living expenses, a stipend and other items should be included.
Parents need to identify how the money will be paid. They can open an escrow account, for example, and deposit a certain amount each month. Or a parent can make one lump sum payment for investment when their child is young.
The agreement may also contain a ceiling which may restrict the length of time their child is in college or eliminate attendance at higher-price universities. These restrictions can address the maximum amount each parent will pay for a school semester or year or the number of years they will provide support.
Finally, parents should prepare for unexpected death or financial loss. Both parents should purchase disability and life insurance to cover their college payment responsibilities.
An attorney can help negotiate and draft an agreement that meets this and other financial needs. They may also help assure that the settlement is fair and reasonable.