My Ex and I Went through a Terrible Divorce Five Years Ago, but Didn’t Settle Our Kids’ College Expenses. How Do I Make Him Pay His Share?
My awful divorce was finalized in 2018, but there’s a lot still left unresolved. I have two children who are now 14 and 16, and we are starting to look at colleges. The only thing we accounted for in our master separation agreement was that we have prepaid tuition plans in our state. If they go anywhere else, we’ll have a problem.
When dealing with college expenses in particular, divorced families run into a range of issues. Many get divorced when the children are small and the parents have no idea what college will cost, or whether their kids will even go to college.
Some families will simply punt on the decision, says Brett Ward, co-chair of the matrimonial department at Blank Rome, a law firm in New York. “They are dealing with the issues of the day, and [so] they say, ‘We’ll deal with that when they go,’” says Ward.
Others agree to pay some percentage split, often 50/50, but capped at the equivalent of the going tuition rate at the state university where the family lives. But then what happens if one parent becomes financially successful in the meantime, while the other has limited means and Harvard tuition is $90,000 a year? Or if one parent simply refuses to fill out the financial-aid forms when the time comes, or just refuses to contribute?
“About 90% of the cases don’t become an issue, but some do because people will fight about anything,” Ward says.
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"My Ex and I Went through a Terrible Divorce Five Years Ago, but Didn’t Settle Our Kids’ College Expenses. How Do I Make Him Pay His Share?" by Beth Pinsker was published in MarketWatch on November 28, 2023.