When parents divorce, they not only need to learn how to co-parent effectively, but they also have to figure out how best to manage their shared child’s educational expenses. While many expenses are covered by child support, large costs related to a child’s education often fall outside of regular child support.
Below we look at how some of these expenses can be managed by parents post-divorce. Keep reading to learn more.
Paying for Private School
Private school tuition can be incredibly expensive. In some cases, it is just as expensive as the tuition at a private university. In fact, it is not uncommon for Florida private school tuition to cost $10,000/year or more. While your child support payments cover the day-to-day expenses associated with child-rearing, this additional $10,000 burden is not necessarily included in those monthly support payments. So how do parents split the cost?
Make Private School Part of Your Parenting Plan
When getting divorced in Florida, parents will have to develop a parenting plan together. This plan outlines many important custody matters and is legally enforceable. While there are specific things that must be included in this plan, parents are encouraged to be as detailed as possible. They can include other important matters about their child, like how private school tuition will be paid.
Ways parents deal with the cost of private school include:
- Split the cost of tuition 50/50
- The higher-earning parent pays for tuition
- The parents come up with their own split that reflects any disparity in income, such as 70/30 or 60/40, with the higher-earning parent paying more
- Eligible families apply for financial aid or scholarships from the school in question
If your current parenting plan does not address your child’s private school expenses, you have the option to file for a modification. This sometimes happens when a child does not initially attend private school, but their parents decide to move them to a private school at a later date. Speak with your attorney if you need to modify a parenting plan.
Paying for Extracurricular Activities
It is not uncommon for children to be involved in various extracurricular activities. From sports or dance classes to fencing or equestrian lessons, many of the extracurricular activities our children enjoy can be quite expensive. However, they are frequently not included in child custody agreements because they are not generally considered necessities. Because of this, you and your child’s other parent will need to find a different way to split the costs of these activities.
In some cases, one parent will want a child to participate in an activity, such as music lessons, while the other parent doesn’t think it is necessary or doesn’t want to pay for it. It can be difficult to come to terms with your co-parent in these cases. If you and your co-parent cannot agree, you may find it helpful to work with a mediator to determine who will pay for your child’s extracurricular activities.
Common ways parents split extracurricular activities include:
- Both parents split all extracurricular activities 50/50
- One parent pays for one activity while the other pays for another one
- The parent who wants the child to participate in the activity pays, and the other parent remains uninvolved in the activity
- As with private school tuition, some extracurricular programs offer scholarships and financial aid to eligible families
In addition to working out who will pay for what extracurricular activities and how, mediation can also help you work out a system for engaging with your co-parent when it comes to signing up your child for extracurricular activities. For example, some parents agree that all extracurricular activities must be approved by both parents before the child can be enrolled, while other parents only want to be notified when the other parent signs their child up for an activity.
Paying for College or Vocational School
Though some states have determined that parents must pay for their children’s post-secondary education, Florida does not. While Florida parents are not required to pay for their child’s college education, many parents still plan to contribute to their child’s university education. However, this becomes complicated post-divorce. After they separate, many parents are left wondering who will pay what and how they will split the costs.
Start Planning Sooner Rather than Later
The cost of college tuition has increased significantly in recent years. Though tuition in Florida is lower than the national average, this does not mean it is cheap or even affordable. Whether your child goes to a public university or a private university can also have a major impact on how much your child’s college education will cost you, not to mention the extra expense if they choose to go to an out-of-state school.
In Florida, the average cost of tuition at a public university is approximately $4,500 compared to a private university, where the average tuition rate is over $25,000. Not to mention the additional costs of living on campus or in off-campus housing.
With such high costs, the sooner you and your co-parent start planning for your child’s college expenses, the better. In addition to making provisions for college costs in your parenting plan, you and your co-parent should work to stay on the same page regarding what you can and cannot pay for when the time comes. For example, some parents can fully fund their child’s college education, while others will cover their child’s tuition while the child lives at home to avoid the additional cost of living on campus or in an apartment. Some parents may also decide to take out loans to help their child pay for college.
Other things you and your co-parent can do to prepare for your child’s college expenses:
- Set up a savings account for your child
- Consider putting money into a tax-advantaged 529 educational fund
- Research the financial aid opportunities available both at the federal and state level
- Decide whether you will take out loans for your child’s education and, if so, who will be responsible for those loans
- Research the colleges your child will apply to and get a sense of the cost of living in those areas
If you are divorced or going through a divorce and need help figuring out how to split your child’s educational expenses with your co-parent, reach out to Virga Law Firm, P.A. Our divorce attorneys are highly experienced, and we can use this experience to help you with your case.