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Divorce negotiations can find a plan to pay college tuitions

Divorce in Missouri generally follows the contours of procedure and substance that exist in other states. Although each state has its own variations, most divorce statutes today have a provision for a no-fault divorce. This means that neither party has to be blamed for causing the dissolution of the marriage.

Nonetheless, no fault divorces can get just as contentious due to the need to engage in equitable property distribution and the determination of custody, support and alimony. Where there are children who will be going to college, the negotiations should take up the issue of financing their college educations. This can raise real problems with the average tuition per year being $46,950 according to the College Board.

The average cost for a state school is $20,770 per year. The problem is that divorce means that a household once supported generally by two incomes will now be consisting of two households trying to exist on the same amount of total income. Furthermore, divorce negotiations will inevitably deal with child and spousal support prior to looking at higher education.

The amount that a court may require a parent to contribute to a college education will generally depend on the financial situation and abilities of the parent. If the money is not there, a parent cannot force the other parent to pay for a private, expensive education. This is nebulous area, however, and the parent must vigilantly insist on proof and detailed documentation of the other parent's ability to pay in the coming years.

In addition, college provisions in an agreement are usually capped at five years, and graduate school is not covered. There is the option available in Missouri and nationally of opening a 529 plan where the parents can save over the years for a future college education. The money accumulates tax-free and is not taxable when withdrawn, on the condition that it must be used for qualified education expenses. The 529 plan is something to discuss with one's family law attorney when divorce negotiations gear up; it is prudent to also include a qualified financial planner in this and other aspects of the negotiations.

Source: cnbc.com, "How to keep your divorce from sabotaging your children's college education", Lorie Konish, May 18, 2018

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