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Divorce Talk: Back to School

19 Jul 2021 3:27 PM | Deleted user

By Peter C. Paras, Esq.

Children of all ages will be returning to school in the next few weeks. Many high school students will soon be taking the PSAT, SAT, or even submitting college applications. In New Jersey, divorced or separated parents can be required to contribute to their children’s post-high school educational expenses. That not only applies to four-year college programs, but to junior colleges, trade schools, and vocational schools.  

Each case is fact specific, taking into account the unique circumstances of each family. Among them is the child’s aptitude. Is he a serious student? Are her grades and test scores high enough for admittance by the schools of her choice?  

Also important are the family’s finances. Does the divorce, which usually spawns two households with the expenses that go along with each, have enough family income to contribute to college? And, in what proportions?  Are there savings that were earmarked for college? Are there savings that were not, but can be used for college?  

Is financial aid available – scholarships, grants, and loans – and have the student and the parents cooperated in applying for it and submitting all required financial documents (e.g., income tax returns)? If loans are available, are they taken in the parents’ or the student’s name and who will repay those loans, regardless of whose name they’re in? 

These are some of the factors to consider when the time comes to think about college. There are many more. This is one area divorced parents have in common with parents who aren’t divorced. 

Post-high school education is expensive. It is almost always an extraordinary expense that goes well beyond the monthly family budget. Prudent parents plan for these expenditures well in advance. Often divorced parents are at odds. They have competing interests, each trying to safeguard as much of the available income for himself or herself as possible.  

Cooperation is never more important than when a child’s future is at stake. College costs are high. There is no denying that. But what better to spend your money on than your child’s education? To give your child the tools to see the world with a wide lens and to begin a productive and prosperous life are among the best things parents can do for their children.  

Think about (and talk about) these issues early. Don’t avoid them until the last minute. They won’t go away. By sharing information and ideas, and by being willing to sacrifice a little, you can ensure your child has the opportunities you want him or her to have for a bright future. 

Peter C. Paras is a shareholder in the Family Law Firm of Paras, Apy & Reiss, P.C. For more information please see the firm’s website at www.par-law.com

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice.  For legal advice you should consult your attorney.

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