Divorce affects the entire family. When you start negotiating a divorce settlement and parenting plan, you make every decision with your child's best interests in mind. Even if your child is very young, you may worry about how you will pay for a college education and if this is something you should negotiate as part of your divorce. An experienced attorney from Jerkins Family Law can advise you of your options, and you can choose the one that best fits your vision of your child's future.
North Carolina courts do not order college expenses as part of your ex-spouse's child support obligations because they are legally your child's obligation. Your ex-spouse's obligation to pay child support ends when your child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later.
If you and your ex-spouse agree, you can add a college expense provision to your divorce settlement specifying who will pay which higher education expenses for your child. The more specific you can be in this agreement, the fewer disputes you should have later.
Specify what percentage each parent pays and if this includes all college expenses or just tuition. You may consider adding an age cap or the number of years of schooling to which you are willing to contribute. A minimum grade requirement ensures that you and your ex-spouse can end your obligation if your child routinely fails classes. Also consider adding a tuition cap, such as limiting each parent's obligation to the cost of an in-state public university, regardless of where your child attends school. Be sure to add the ability to collect reimbursement for attorney fees and court costs if one party breaches the contract.
If you decide to add a college expense provision to your divorce settlement and your ex-spouse fails to pay, your child can sue your ex-spouse for breach of contract because the child is the third party beneficiary. If your child is still a minor, you can file the lawsuit. If the court finds in your favor, the judge enters an Order for Specific Performance requiring your ex-spouse to perform the obligations listed in the contract. If your ex-spouse still does not pay the stipulated amount, your ex-spouse can be held in contempt of court.
Another option is for both parents to contribute a specified amount to a 529 Plan to be used for your child's college education. You can specify a percentage of income or a set amount for each parent to pay.
In case your child does not pursue higher education, you need to specify what happens to those funds.
Hire an Experienced North Carolina Divorce Attorney
Negotiating a divorce settlement can be stressful even under the best circumstances and adding children and money to the negotiations can make the process even more contentious. The experienced North Carolina divorce attorneys at Jerkins Family Law can protect your child's future with a strong college expense provision as part of your divorce settlement or negotiate contributions to a 529 Plan.
At Jerkins Family Law, we are committed to protecting your best interests. Contact us today.