Kids, College, and Divorce: Queens Divorce Attorney Bruce Feinstein, Esq. on the Issue of Paying for Tuition After Divorce

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Mr. Feinstein shares simple yet important tips for divorced couples when it comes to paying for their children's college education.

Queens Divorce Attorney Bruce Feinstein, Esq.

Queens Divorce Attorney Bruce Feinstein, Esq.

Many couples are so wrapped up in other issues during a divorce that they don’t think down the line. They may be focused on their children’s needs now, but what about a few years later when that child is applying to college?

There are many factors that couples discuss during a divorce proceeding, including distribution of assets, child custody, and childcare costs. But what about paying for a child’s college education? This is a major financial and personal experience that many couple often gloss over during a divorce. Bruce Feinstein, a divorce and family law attorney in Queens, New York, is leveraging nearly two decades of industry experience to hit home the importance of bringing up tuition costs early on in the divorce conversation.

Paying for college is a daunting task even before divorce comes into the equation. So Mr. Feinstein recommends negotiating college costs up front. “Many couples are so wrapped up in other issues during a divorce that they don’t think down the line,” says Mr. Feinstein. “They may be focused on their children’s needs now, but what about a few years later when that child is applying to college? This is a huge responsibility that needs to be tackled no matter how young your children are.”

The conversation can be as basic as establishing which parent pays for college, or how to split up the percentages of tuition and other fees. That way there is a binding legal agreement that lays out the framework of payment when it comes time to start paying the bills. Mr. Feinstein also points out that doing this legwork now will save money in the long run, since divorced couples can avoid future legal fees when the issue arises.

Another conversation parents need to have during a divorce is financial aid forms. The majority of families in the U.S. apply for some form of financial aid when paying for college, and many use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). But which parent should fill out these forms? According to a March 3, 2014 article by Reuters on the subject, the FAFSA only looks at the income of the parent the child lives with the most, and it will include the income of a stepparent if applicable. So couples need to discuss which parent should fill out financial aid forms, a conversation that may be as easy as determining which parent has a lower income. “Some couples agree to a fifty-fifty split of total college costs, while others may have to work out a different plan of who pays tuition, who applies for aid, and who covers out-of-pocket expenses,” says Mr. Feinstein. “No matter what the final call is at the end of the divorce, it’s better to talk about it now rather than later, when the college mailers start coming in.”

There are also best practices for couples who are not divorced. Mr. Feinstein recommends that couples start a 529 plan as soon they start saving for their children’s education. This is a tax-free savings account created solely to help families save money for college costs. Beyond the tax benefits, the 529 plan makes sure that the money goes solely toward a child’s education. While it’s a good idea in theory to open up a normal savings account for a child’s tuition, the funds in that account can technically be used for any service. And if a couple gets divorced, that account may end up being used for a different purpose. Mr. Feinstein adds, “If a couple doesn’t have tuition savings secured in a 529 plan and they get divorced it only adds to the list of financial hurdles they need to cross. They can ask their attorneys to try and save those assets for their intended purpose, but it can quickly become an uphill battle.”

The Law Offices of Bruce Feinstein, Esq. has nearly two decades of experience in divorce law, helping clients and families resolve their issues and move forward with their lives. Visit for more information or call (718) 475-6039 to reach the New York office.

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