When you begin divorce proceedings and have young children, college expenses may be way down on your list of concerns to discuss and resolve throughout the divorce process. For example, co-parenting and fair property division may be at the top of your list.
However, it can be worth taking the time to think longer term about potential college expenses even if your children are young.
The earlier you plan, the more money you can save
Start saving early for college with something such as a 529 plan, and you and your co-parent may be better equipped later to pay for college. Having this discussion also gets the both of you on the same page and can be an incentive for your co-parent to contribute his or her fair share. Make no mistake, college can be incredibly expensive, and having this talk now can save many tens of thousands of dollars down the road or even hundreds of thousands.
The two of you should also agree on what happens to the savings if your child decides not to go to college.
Time does make some aspects more difficult
At the same time, it is important to stay relatively flexible on what you and your co-parent agree on during your divorce talks. For instance, suppose you outearn your spouse by a lot and agree to pay 50 percent of college expenses over whatever the 529 plan does not cover. Your spouse pays 25 percent, while your child pays the remaining 25 percent. What if, five years later, your spouse starts outearning you, or you realize you want to change jobs and tackle a career path that pays less?
It is a good idea for the both of you to remain flexible and understanding because people change, they lose their jobs, they have more children, they move, they get stuck with medical emergencies and much more. Because of this, you may prefer not to go into too much detail concerning college expenses. A lawyer may be able to help you come up with a basic agreement.