Who Pays for College After a Divorce?


One issue that couples considering a divorce in Pasadena often fail to plan for is paying for a child's post-secondary education expenses. College is very expensive, even when a couple is happily married. For divorced parents, paying for college presents additional challenges because there are two households to maintain and possible half siblings or step siblings to consider.

To receive loans, grants, and other forms of assistance, a student needs to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This will require reporting income from the custodial parent. In the case of joint custody where parents share expenses equally, the child must normally report information from the parent with the greater income. It makes no difference whether or not the parent whose income is being reported actually plans to provide assistance. The rules are standardized.

Child support and/or alimony received from the student's non-custodial parent must legally be reported on the FAFSA.

Typically, when income and assets must be reported, this also includes information for the child's stepparent. The federal government considers stepparents a source of support even if the couple has a prenuptial agreement absolving the stepparent of financial responsibility for the student's expenses.

Private colleges are allowed to consider non-custodial parents as a potential source of support for a student's education expenses and may require the completion of an additional form in order for your child to receive school-sponsored grants and scholarships. This could include the income of the non-custodial parent's new spouse as well.

Tax credits for educational expenses paid go to the parent who claims the child as a dependant on his or her tax return. This means the custodial parent can legally claim a credit for tuition paid by the non-custodial parent.

If your child is already in the process of applying for college, a representative from the school's financial aid office can help you fill out the necessary forms. If your child is younger, however, it is a good idea to have your Pasadena divorce attorney help you decide how parental responsibility for college expenses will be handled in your divorce settlement. Creating clear expectations will make the process of sending your son or daughter off to school much easier for everyone involved.