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Don't forget about college expenses during divorce settlement

Parents getting divorced in Washington often worry about the impact the divorce will have on their children. Some spouses end up arguing over child custody and visitation arrangements or worry about how often they will be spending time with their kids. Child custody and visitation is a very important issue to consider while getting divorced, but parents also need to think about the future needs of their children during the divorce process. 

It can be difficult to know what your children will need as they grow up and become adults. However, most parents know their children will need to go to college to enter the professional world so it is best to start planning now before your kids start filling out college applications down the road.

Parents getting divorced need to think about how their child's college expenses will be paid for. Have you already started saving for college? Are both parents able to contribute to a college savings plan after the divorce? Or will your kids solely rely on financial aid and student loans to pay for college?

These are important questions to ask during the divorce process so both parents are on the same page when it comes to their kids' college expenses. If you and your spouse have already started saving for college, then you should make sure to address those funds in your divorce settlement to make sure the money goes towards your child's college expenses and not something else. 

If you haven't started saving or would like to add a new savings account, parents should consider a 529 college savings account. This type of account is tax-free and can only be used for college expenses. Parents interested in contributing to a 529 account should include an agreement in their divorce settlement so both parents know what is expected of them after the divorce.

Parents also need to consider who will fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Colleges use this to determine how much financial aid a student qualifies for based on their parent's income. Only one parent can fill out this form, and the parent making the lower income typically fills it out if both parents spend equal time with the kids. 

Addressing college expenses now may be difficult, but it will make all the difference in the future and will help your kids go to college.

Source: Reuters, "Three things divorced parents need to know about college," Geoff Williams, March 3, 2014

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