College Expenses After Divorce in Arizona
College expenses can be very expensive even when two parents are contributing to those expenses. However, it can be much harder for a single parent to cover those college expenses after a divorce in Arizona. So, what can or should you do to cover future college expenses if you are going through a divorce.
The first thing you should know is a court does not absent an agreement between the parents have the authority to order either parent to pay college expenses. This means your spouse may have no obligation to pay your child’s college expenses. The reason for this is children are considered adults once they reach 18 years of age.
So, what should you be doing if your children will be attending college after your divorce and you want to ensure your spouse is required to pay your child’s college expenses. Well, the spousal maintenance laws in Arizona do consider each parent’s willingness to pay college expenses when determining how much spousal maintenance to award in a divorce.
Spousal Maintenance and Childrens’ College Expenses
The spousal maintenance laws in Arizona do consider each parent’s willingness to pay college expenses when determining how much spousal maintenance to award in a divorce. So, one tactic you can use to encourage your spouse to enter into a binding agreement to pay for your children’s college expenses is to ask for spousal maintenance. You would then accumulate information on the cost of your children’s college expenses.
If your spouse refuses to agree to contribute to college expenses, you can move forward with your spousal maintenance case and try to convince a judge to award you an amount of alimony to be used to save for your children’s college education. This may encourage your spouse to reach an agreement with you to pay those college expenses in your divorce. Imagine how bad it could look on your spouse if your spouse testified in a trial that he or she is refusing to share in those college expenses.
529 Plans and College Costs
Some parents have already contributed to their children’s future college expenses by investing in a section 529 plan. If you have a 529 plan in place, you will need to ensure your earmark that plan for the children’s future college expenses in your divorce decree. This ensures neither parent liquidates those funds for their own use. Additionally, you can also include provisions in your divorce decree for each parent to continue contributing to those plans well after your divorce is over.
Again, a judge only has the authority to enter orders requiring future contributions to a 529 plan if the parties agree to do so. As you can see, it is important for you to negotiate college expenses when you are going through a divorce. The only time you may have enough leverage to cause your spouse to contribute to those expenses is during your divorce. Once your divorce is over, you have no way to ensure your spouse helps with those expenses.
Third Party Beneficiaries of Agreement to Pay College Expenses
The law recognizes that someone other than the two people entering into a contract may be considered to be what is referred to in the law as an “intended third-party beneficiary” of that contract. You may consider naming your children as “intended third-party beneficiaries” of agreements for paying college expenses in your divorce settlement.
The reason for doing so is that it gives your children the independent right to seek enforcement of those agreements if necessary. Although we do not want to see children enforcing agreements against their own parents, it will give them that legal option which may encourage your spouse to abide by the terms of your agreement.
Clearly Define What College Expenses are Covered
If your spouse is agreeable to entering into a divorce settlement that includes payment for college expenses after your divorce, make sure you are very clear in that agreement regarding what expenses are to included in the agreement. We have seen some divorce decrees that only indicate a spouse is to pay “room and board” and “college tuition and fees”. Although that may be acceptable in some situations, it may be better in other circumstances to be more specific. You should consider the following list of expense when negotiating an agreement to pay for children’s college expenses after a divorce:
- Payment of your child’s rent;
- Purchase of furniture for your child’s college apartment or room;
- Payment of utilities, such as electricity, water, garbage service, and cable television;
- Payment of health insurance and payment of insurance deductibles and co-pays for your child while attending college;
- Car payment and car insurance;
- Expenses for food, household supplies, and clothing;
- An allowance for your child for incidental expenses;
- Expenses for a fraternity or a sorority your child may join;
- College Tuition and fees;
- Payment for required books and material;
- Money for studies abroad;
- Money for traveling home during school breaks;
Call the experienced Scottsdale and Phoenix Arizona divorce attorneys at (480)305-8300 at Hildebrand Law, PC to learn more about divorce in Arizona.
Chris Hildebrand wrote this article about college expenses during a divorce in Arizona to ensure everyone has access to information about divorce laws in Arizona. Chris is a family law attorney at Hildebrand Law, PC. He has over 24 years of Arizona family law experience and has received multiple awards, including US News and World Report “Top Arizona Divorce Attorneys”, Phoenix Magazine “Top Divorce Law Firms”, and Arizona Foothills Magazine “Best of the Valley” award. He believes the policies and procedures he uses to get his clients through a child custody case should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and actually caring about what his clients are going through.