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Co-parents: Your child might be ready for college. Are you?

Co-parenting or sharing custody of your child with another parent is undoubtedly a challenge. Just when you seem to get into a stable routine, something changes and shakes everything up.

For instance, if your child is getting ready for college — or even just starting to think about it — you may find yourself confronting some new parenting challenges.

Who is going to pay for college?

One of the most pressing concerns parents in this situation have is who will pay for college. Will you both contribute? Will one parent pay more? Who will pay for a child’s travel expenses?

In Pennsylvania, absent a written agreement to the contrary, parents are not obligated to pay for their child’s post-secondary education. As a result, if it is your desire to ensure your child is not footing this bill, you should address college and related finances simultaneous with your divorce and/or custody issues.

Expenses associated with college are not limited to tuition. Parents working on written agreements regarding the cost of post-secondary education should consider the cost of books, room and board, dining plans, and general living expenses.

How might it change arrangements during holidays and breaks?

When children are minors, the custody schedule in place dictates their schedule. Once they turn 18, they can make their own decisions about where they want to go during holidays and breaks. Talk to your son or daughter about holiday and vacation plans, and do so with plenty of time to make any necessary arrangements.

What and where will your child study?

Your legal custody rights when they were a minor might have permitted you to dictate where they went to school and what educational and extra-curricular activities they participated in, but your 18 year old’s major and where they go to school is their choice alone. In that same vein, absent a written agreement to the contrary, parents are not obligated to pay for a child’s post-secondary education.

Being a parent is not easy, even when a child becomes an adult and leaves home. However, parents can approach these changes the same way they approach other parenting challenges: with a solid plan, clear communication and a focus on their child’s well-being.

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