College Planning and Your Divorce


College planning is often an area that is neglected by parents thinking about filing for divorce in Pasadena. This mistake can have serious consequences, especially if your child has his/her heart set on attending a private out-of-state college.

Even if college seems light years away, it's never too early to start planning. With higher education growing more important by the year -- and its costs growing right along with it -- it's crucial that you think about how you will help your child reach his/her educational goals. There is no statute in California requiring non-custodial parents to help pay for a child's post-secondary education, but you can negotiate with your ex to have this language included in your divorce decree. Stating up front that the education of your children is a priority prevents unpleasant surprises once it's time to start applying for college.

Money saved for a child's college tuition should be placed in an account that is specifically earmarked for educational expenses. A 529 account is a tax-free account used for college-only expenses, which signals to the court that this money is genuinely for the benefit of your children. If you have money in an account that can be accessed for any reason, the court may consider this money available for the payment of legal fees and other divorce-related expenses.

If your children are teenagers, think about what type of custody arrangement would result in the most financial aid. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) only requires information from the parent the child lives with the most in the year before applying. However, stepparent income is counted in the calculation if the stepparent lives with the child.

If you are the custodial parent, you will need to avoid withdrawing from IRAs, exercising stock options, or selling real estate while your child is in need of federal financial aid. Any activity that increases your income will decrease the loans and/or grants that your child is able to receive.

How Can We Help?

If you are in need of legal representation during your divorce, please call our office at (626) 683-8113 or email us at Our experienced Pasadena family law lawyers can assist you in obtaining a fair settlement that will ensure that the future needs of your children are taken care of.