When parents agree to share college costs as part of their divorce settlement, it can be at a time when their children are younger and college is still in the far-off future.
But time marches on, and someday those same young children will be young adults getting ready for the next big step in life. As your child decides on which college or university to attend, it is time to look back at those college cost sharing agreements. Does your agreement obligate you to pay 20%, 50%, 80%, or even all of your child’s tuition?
Whatever the share, it’s natural to explore how to minimize costs. Grants and scholarships awarded to your child can help to bring down your child’s tuition bill. But even with a few breaks, college tuition, even at state colleges, can still be steep. So what about student loans? Can you ask your child to take out loans to help defray how much you and your former spouse must pay? Your property settlement agreement (PSA) might even include language that your child is required to apply for college loans. Is this kind of language enforceable by the courts?
The answer to this last question is no, according to the recent New Jersey Appellate Division opinion in the matter of M.F.W. v. G.O., a case that found if co-parents have means to pay, then children can’t be forced to take out loans.