California parents have no legal obligation to pay for their children's college education. Still, many choose to help their kids cover the costs anyway. But what about after a divorce? Most people already know that they need to address topics like child custody and support, but not many take the time to come to an agreement about paying for college.
If most parents end up helping their kids pay for at least some of their college, what is the point of putting an agreement down on paper? Since there is no legal obligation to pay for higher education, a parent who needs help paying for a child to attend school will probably not have any legal recourse if the other parent is asked and refuses to help. Getting everyone's agreed-upon contributions down in a divorce settlement can ensure that neither the child nor one of the parents will end up in a difficult financial position.
Helping out financially does not necessarily mean covering all or even part of a student's tuition. One parent could agree to cover room and board as well as textbooks, while another could foot the bill for the meal plan and any transportation costs. Ultimately, the agreement should reflect what each person feels that he or she can securely contribute.
Planning ahead for college can be a smart idea for everyone involved. Although child custody might be the main focus when children are small, parents should still be looking ahead toward college. Thinking long-term can actually be beneficial for children, as short-sighted decision making may land California couples back in court, asking for modifications of their current agreements.