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Planning for college when creating your custody agreement

Parents facing divorce in California often go to extreme lengths to mitigate the effects of divorce on their children and their family's future. Being willing to work with your ex amicably is an important first step.

If you can focus on using divorce as a fresh start for your entire family, as opposed to a way to punish one another, it is possible for the end of your marriage to have a positive result for your family. Careful planning and attention to the needs of your children are critical to protecting your offspring from the social, financial and emotional consequences of divorce.

You and your ex likely need to sit down and have an earnest discussion about your hopes for the future of your children and the costs of raising your kids to adulthood. One of the issues you will need to discuss is going to be college and how you intend to pay for it.

Typically, the courts will not order support for the college years

The California family code allows for child support through the end of high school. Typically, the average student is 18 when they graduate from high school. However, California law also provides for ongoing child support for children who graduate after they turn 18. The courts will order child support through graduation or when a child turns 19.

After that, barring special needs, the legal obligation to pay child support ends. Even if you know at the time of your divorce that your child has collegiate aspirations, you cannot expect the courts to order your ex to contribute toward college costs via child support.

If you and your spouse agree that college is the right path for your child, you may be able to create a formal agreement about saving for college. The custodial parent, for example, may agree to set aside a specific percentage of child support payments to save for college. The non-custodial parent may also agree to set some money aside separately from child support to help fund college at a later date.

Paying for college is often a six-figure commitment

The costs for a college degree have increased in the recent decades. It is possible that your family could be looking at six figures in educational expenses to secure a four-year degree for just one child.

Instead of waiting for your child to choose a school as they near the end of high school, it is best to start planning for college costs now. Addressing these important investments in your children's futures with your ex as part of your divorce is a good idea. It will give you a better idea of the real financial circumstances you will experience after divorcing.

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