Dividing School Expenses During Divorce

Dividing Up School Expenses

Being in financial limbo can sometimes be the most stressful part of separation and divorce. You may still be in the process of separating your finances and assets, but nothing is final yet. You may not have finalized a separation agreement yet, but you still need to decide how to divide expenses for your children.

One of the biggest points of contention between separated couples can be finances and support for children, including educational expenses. But discussing splitting school expenses doesn’t have to be adversarial. Even if the two of you have difficulty coming to cooperative agreements right now, an experienced family law attorney well versed in mediation and collaboration can help you reach an agreement.


Education in Your Parenting Plan

If you have a child in private school or college, their yearly educational expenses may be significant. But even if your child attends public school, they may have additional expenses for extracurricular activities, music lessons, athletics, tutoring, or fun field trips. If you and your partner discuss these financial matters from the beginning, it can help the two of you stay cordial about money and avoid unexpected financial burdens.

  1. Private School

Private school expenses can be substantial when you include the cost of tuition, uniforms, books, and activities. You may also have additional transportation costs if your child doesn’t attend a nearby school. If your child is already in private school, you and your ex should discuss how to share the costs during your separation. If you would like to move your child to a private school, this may be a decision you should make jointly with your ex-partner to ensure that you’re both on the same page concerning your educational goals for your child. Making these decisions jointly can also help avoid unexpected expenses for your co-parent and avoid conflict during your separation and divorce.

  1. Extracurricular Expenses

From violin lessons to marching band, lacrosse to basketball, tutoring, AP testing, semesters abroad, and SAT prep, the extra expenses accompanying your child’s education can add up. Often, it’s easy to overlook the costs that crop up along the year when we’re thinking about the cost of our children’s education. But when you’re separated, it’s a good idea to plan so that you and your ex can discuss what you can afford and how to allocate those costs. Being as transparent as possible can ensure that your parenting relationship remains cooperative and collaborative. And your budding Picasso can still get the art lessons they need.

  1. College Tuition

In many states in the U.S., parents are never required to contribute to their kids’ college education. Often, post-high school training or education is still considered a luxury. However, in New York, parents must support their children until age 21, not 18. So, even if your child lives away from home while attending college, their post-high school education may be part of that support. In determining whether each parent should contribute to college costs, the court will often look at whether the parents and the child intended for the child to attend college, including:

  • What kind of education do you and your ex-partner have?
  • Did your child take college prep classes?
  • What preparations did you and your ex make for college?
  • Were both parents involved in college prep decisions?

If it’s clear that both you and your ex intended for your child to attend college, then a court will typically look at how you should share those costs. The general rule in New York is that for most middle-class families, no parent will be forced to pay more than the average cost of a SUNY college.

However, as part of your separation or divorce agreement, you should directly address college or post-high school educational expenses. How will you share the costs? Be sure to include the total cost of their education, including tuition and fees, room and board, and any additional expenses. You may also want to account for the constantly rising cost of tuition, particularly if your children are still young. By addressing these issues during your separation, you may be able to avoid protracted or hostile litigation later.

The Miller Law Group

Divorce and separation don’t have to be adversarial processes. There is a better, more collaborative way. At the Miller Law Group, we can help guide you through this process, helping you work cooperatively and mediating disputes when necessary. Call us today, to schedule a confidential consultation.

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