If you are filing for divorce in Norfolk and have minor children, you have numerous issues to address, such as custody, child support, and parenting time. However, one aspect that might not immediately come to mind is determining who will bear the responsibility of college tuition and expenses. You should work with an experienced family law attorney so you know your rights and ensure that they are protected.
How College Expenses Are Handled in a Virginia Divorce
Virginia courts cannot order either parent to pay for college tuition or other expenses in a divorce. However, if you and your spouse agree to include provisions for college expenses in your divorce judgment, the court will enforce those provisions.
Factors to Consider When Agreeing to Pay College Expenses in Your Divorce
If you and your partner agree to include the payment of college tuition and other expenses in your divorce judgment, you must know what you are agreeing to. You also should make the terms of your agreement very clear so you do not have disputes later on. Here are some crucial issues to consider:
- Define what college means. Clearly define what is considered as "college" in your divorce agreement. Specify whether it includes attending a university, community college, or trade school and whether the payments extend to graduate or professional programs. This clarification helps avoid ambiguity in the future.
- Determine what you will pay. Specify what is being paid, such as tuition, room and board, books, and health insurance. Set a maximum limit or a cap on the amount each parent will contribute towards college expenses. It can be a fixed amount or a percentage of the total costs. Establishing a limit provides financial predictability and ensures fairness between both parties.
- Set a time limit. Specify the duration for which each parent will be responsible for college expenses. It could be a set number of years or until the child reaches a certain age. This timeframe helps define the length of the financial obligation and allows for proper planning.
- Designate where payments will be made. Determine whether the payments will be made directly to the educational institution or the custodial parent, who will then handle the payments. Clarifying this aspect ensures that the funds are allocated appropriately and the process is transparent.
- Specify if your child must contribute. Decide whether your child is expected to contribute to their college expenses through employment, scholarships, or student loans. If so, outline the expectations and discuss how the child's financial contributions will be factored into the overall payment arrangement.