Divorced Parents and College Expenses

No one expects or enjoys the pain of divorce, and a bad marriage is often extended in a fleeting attempt to avoid it entirely. This is especially the case when kids are involved. An estimated 80% of married couples head towards divorce within five years and within ten years, 37% of remarriages end in separation or divorce. Age plays a big part in the fate of a first marriage, and couples who marry between the ages of 20 and 24 are twice as likely to divorce at any point in their lives than those who first marry over the age of 25. Many of those who marry young opt to stay in a broken marriage until the kids are out of high school.


No one expects or enjoys the pain of divorce, and a bad marriage is often extended in a fleeting attempt to avoid it entirely. This is especially the case when kids are involved. An estimated 80% of married couples head towards divorce within five years and within ten years, 37% of remarriages end in separation or divorce. Age plays a big part in the fate of a first marriage, and couples who marry between the ages of 20 and 24 are twice as likely to divorce at any point in their lives than those who first marry over the age of 25. Many of those who marry young opt to stay in a broken marriage until the kids are out of high school. Of course, by then the pride of planning for college and concerns of impending college expenses can vie for dominance. What should be an exciting time of wonder is quickly consumed by fear and regret. A Michigan divorce doesn’t need to be postponed or avoided indefinitely due to worries over college expenses. In fact, a few simple tips can get everyone through this important life stage with minimal stress.

Understand the Difference Between the Terms “Custody” and “Parent”

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 86% of first-time, full-time undergrad students enrolling at a 4-year post-secondary institute of learning were awarded financial aid in the 2014-15 school year. So chances are your kid falls into that category to at least cover part of their college expenses. Almost 60% of that was in the form of government grants and 34% was in the form of loans. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) asks for the custodial parent of the applicant, but that can be misleading. It’s not saying that the person paying or that both parents aren’t equally invested in their child’s wellbeing. However, for legal purposes, FAFSA requirements focus on the financial information of the parent the student lived with the most over the past year prior to filing the application. This information can significantly affect the amount awarded and the amount your child will eventually need to repay.

Don’t Overshare Information

Many divorcees have multiple households and incomes, but that doesn’t mean everything needs to be disclosed. Biological and step-parents may help complete the family unit but that doesn’t mean all incomes need to be listed on the application. In fact, oversharing can significantly lower the financial assistance if not negate it altogether. Quite often, college expense requirements can be handled during the divorce proceedings, so it may be beneficial to check with your Michigan divorce attorney before your divorce is finalized to verify just how much really needs to be disclosed and how to go about that for your specific case. Otherwise, the general rule is to focus primarily on the custodial parent’s financial information.

Determine the Involvement of the Other Parent

College costs are more difficult to predict after parents divorce, and there are no guarantees that all or most costs will be covered via financial aid. The higher-earning parent is also not necessarily required to cover those final costs. So figure out roles as soon as possible and expect tough and thorough conversations and compromises for the sake of your child. In many cases, the more financially grounded parent is more than willing to assist once they realize their help is needed. But pride needs to be set aside for that to occur. This can often all be settled and arranged prior to the finalization of your Michigan divorce.[right-post]
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