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Influence of divorce on college planning and financial aid

People ending their marriages in Massachusetts have many financial matters to consider before reaching a final agreement. For parents, their divorce settlements should address college expenses for the children. Even if children are young and college is years away, a divorce agreement that addresses the topic could create an obligation to assist with expenses. This provides greater security than broaching the subject of paying for college with an ex-spouse years later.

Parents might not be able to commit to firm numbers within a divorce agreement due to future financial uncertainty. An agreement, however, could cover the matter in general terms about what the parents intend to do. The parents could establish terms about acceptable expenses such as tuition, room and board or books. Allowances should also be made for the possibility that a child might not go to college, choose to take a gap year or study overseas.

The determination of the custodial parent will matter for families that expect to apply for financial aid. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid only requires financial information from the custodial parent. This income will determine eligibility for financial aid.

If a family has any 529 college savings plans, its ownership could also influence financial aid eligibility. Funds held by someone other than the student or custodial parent could cut into federal aid.

A person confronted by these or similar issues during a divorce may wish to talk to an attorney. With legal support, a person might gain a clearer picture about the definition of custodial parent and how to address savings plans set aside for college expenses. An attorney may strive to defend a person's rights during property division and secure an equitable settlement either through negotiations or litigation.

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  • CA State Bar Association
  • MA Bar Association
  • Essex County Bar Association
  • Salem Bar Association
  • Women's Bar Association
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