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Who pays children’s college expenses after divorce?

Many Osceola, Florida, parents, married or divorced, feel a college education is mandatory for their children. The dream isn't always reality, particularly for children of divorced parents. A long-term study of students who entered college in 2003 found more than 45 percent of students with married parents obtained Bachelor's degrees by 2009, but only about 31 percent of students with divorced parents graduated.

Higher education affordability can be a problem, especially for divorced parents footing the costs of separate households. Child support disputes aren't uncommon. It's no different when it comes to deciding whether the custodial or non-custodial parent is paying for college or how parents can split the costs.

Divorced Florida parents are not duty bound to provide financial support for children to attend college, as in some states, unless an agreement between the parents states otherwise. Some judges in Florida family law courts will order what's called postsecondary support, when it can be shown the adult child remains a dependent. In some states, child support is extended until a certain age or until graduation or reclassified as college support.

Parents may choose to address financial responsibilities for college in a divorce agreement. That subject may not be in the forefront, especially when divorce occurs a couple's children are very young. There are no certainties where wealth and health are concerned, making it difficult for parents to make such a large financial commitment a decade or more in advance.

However, the subject is bound to come up eventually. Some divorce attorneys advise it is better to settle the matter while other child-related issues are being decided rather than risk a future conflict. It's unclear what the student loan structure will be years down the road, but parents can look into college savings plans that currently exist and choose the fairest way to share costs -- an equal split or according to the parents' ability to pay.

Source: FastWeb, "How Should Divorced Parents Split a Child's College Costs?," Mark Kantrowitz, accessed June 12, 2015

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