Child support? Child custody? Visitation?
Of all the questions regarding children during a divorce, one that rarely arises is how to pay for college. Especially when very young children are involved, what will happen a decade from now is far from the minds of those going through all the other issues involved in a divorce.
Even if the parents have already started saving for college with a 529 plan or other investments, is the plan maintained or liquidated? If it is maintained, who will control it? Should the account be frozen? Can withdrawals be made from it by one or both parties? Who makes investment decisions even if the account is frozen?
Some of the possible scenarios that may help answer these questions involve the ability of the parents to make co-parenting decisions after the divorce is final. For example, if one parent is concerned that the other might use funds in the college account for his or her own purposes, then freezing the fund might be wise. Even if the account is not frozen and the parents decide that non-education withdrawals can be made, who is responsible for the tax penalties that are incurred?
What if one of the parents remarries and decides to use money in the fund for a child of the new marriage? A stepchild could be older than the children of the first marriage, needing college funds sooner. Freezing the account could prevent this scenario.
If the funds are maintained until all of the children of the marriage are out of college, who gets any funds that remain? Will the fund be liquidated and divided between the parents? Or is it liquidated and the remainder divided between the children? Or, if one or both of the parents decides to return to school themselves, should the money be used to fund their education?
Obviously, many questions exist. The best advice should come from an experienced divorce attorney who understands all of the available options and how to best apply them to each set of circumstances. After all, the best interest of the child is still the guiding principle in custody and support. It should also be the goal of the management of any funds committed to their education.
Contact the law firm of Deering & Deering, P.C. if you are facing a difficult family law, divorce, or child custody case in the Atlanta area.