Parents get divorced and years later they are faced with paying for college. Which expenses are included, which items are parents responsible to pay and what credits are available.
Recently I have handled several college cost cases and I offer the following general guidelines:
1. Read what has already been agreed to in your Divorce Stipulation of Settlement. If you have already defined which expenses are included or excluded and what percentage each party will contribute this is the most valuable place to begin. Usually, the provisions in the Stipulation will control. While there may be exceptions, this is the document the lawyers and judge will want to see first.
2. If your agreement says that costs are limited to a SUNY school then encourage your child to pick a SUNY school unless you can show that the cost of going elsewhere will not exceed the costs of a SUNY school. Otherwise you may be responsible for the costs above a SUNY school.
3. In most cases student loans are not the responsibility of the parents. However, parent loans because there are insufficient student loans may be the responsibility of the parents.
4. If the stipulation says limited to tuition, room and board then you might not get contribution for books, travel to and from school and miscellaneous expenses.
5. Whatever expenses you do incur, send copies promptly to the other parent. Do not stockpile them for a year and then send $12,000 of bills and expect prompt payment.
6. Keep the other parent involved. Have your child communicate with both parents. A parent who is not consulted will not feel like paying. If the child wants a supplemental summer trip the other parent should be consulted.
7. Try your best to be positive and communicative, it will help so much.