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Planning for your kids’ college can be stressful as an intact family when parents start to realize what it is going to cost and how far away your child may be moving.  It is usually something that the parents and the future student sit down and discuss together. So it is that much more complicated when the parents are not together and don’t agree on most things.

Often in Missouri the disputes are alleviated by language that is in many dissolution judgments. Although it is not mandatory, many dissolutions contain language that says the parents agree to divide the costs of the child’s education in a certain way. It could be 50/50, or it could be that the parent with the greater income pays a greater share, or it could say that the parents each pay a share and the child also pays a share of the cost of the education. The provision usually contains caveats that the child must attend full time or a certain number of credits must be attained each semester, that this will only go for a certain number of semesters, and in Missouri, there is usually language that states that the maximum amount that the parents will have to pay is the equivalent of what it costs to attend University of Missouri.

Does this address all the issues that will come up with college planning?

Unfortunately, not. Parents still need to work out who will pay for the child’s transportation to and from school, and when it will be covered (what school breaks).  How are books paid for, and how does the child get spending money? Often the parent paying child support can get an agreement from the other parent that the child support (or some of it) will be deposited into the child’s bank account so that the child has spending money.

A very important issue has to do with financial aid. Pell grants and other financial aid are often need based, so the lower the parent’s income, the more money your child is likely to received. The FAFSA form, which is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, requires a declaration of the income of the custodial parent, which is the parent that the student lives with the most and that claims the student as a dependent on his or her taxes. As parents, you will want to anticipate this when negotiating dependency exemptions as this could save the both of you a lot of money in the future.

Other issues that will come up with college planning will have to do with issues like where the child spends time each school break, who visits on family weekends, parents having any say in the child’s major, and where the child resides when at school (dorm vs apartment). These are all things that should be decided by the parents and child jointly if possible, and hopefully parents can put their differences aside. For help with child custody or other family law issue contact us today.

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