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Negotiating children's college expenses during divorce

Divorce agreements in Brooklyn can include provisions for ex-spouses and child custody, including how much and how long spousal or child support is paid. Beyond alimony and child support considerations, matrimonial lawyers suggest that divorce settlements include how parents will cope with the costs of their children's college education.

If children are young at the time of their parent's divorce, expenses associated with post-secondary education easily can be overlooked. The issue can become contentious much later when the end of mandatory child support often coincides with the start of a college education.

Unless otherwise stipulated in a divorce agreement, most child support payments stop between the time a child reaches adulthood at age 18 or emancipation age, which is up to 21. No laws force a parent to pay for college without a prior agreement or court intervention.

Forward-thinking attorneys suggest that parents solve the education payment problem at the divorce table. Exes can decide how much each will contribute toward a child's college experience from tuition to monthly spending allowances. Escrow accounts and trust funds are frequently used to set aside the funds.

Paying for a child's college education does not replace a parent's obligation to pay spousal or child support.

Divorcing couples in New York have the option of a "SUNY Cap" to limit college expenses. College costs are based upon projected expenses for a State University of New York education regardless of the school a child ends up attending.

The greater the difference between a child's age and the time he reaches college, the harder it is to project just how much the cost of a post-secondary education will be. Couples trying to resolve the issue sometimes employ a specialized financial planner to determine accurately what expenses to expect.

Source: Forbes.com, "Who Pays for College Tuition? Top Factors for Divorcing Women to Consider," Jeff Landers, Jan. 24, 2012

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