With the start of school right around the corner, it’s time to talk about how your divorce can impact your child’s education. At Tad Nelson & Associates, we have represented countless mothers and fathers in divorce proceedings. In our experience, educational issues are a source of conflict, and many people do not adequately address education as part of the divorce.
Contact our firm if you see divorce on the horizon. We can discuss what educational issues you should think about and how to address them in the divorce. A League City divorce lawyer can strategize ways to protect you and your child so that their education isn’t compromised simply because your marriage has ended.
Legal Custody to Make Educational Decisions
In Texas, legal custody is the right to make important decisions for your child on sensitive matters, including education. Some issues can include:
- Whether your child will attend daycare or Head Start.
- Whether they will start school early. Texas law requires that children start attending at age 6, but you might start earlier.
- Whether your child will attend a public, private, or religious school.
- Whether your teen can take college-level courses.
- Whether your child will participate in extracurricular activities and school trips.
If you want a say in these issues, you need legal custody. Most judges award joint legal custody, which means each parent can participate in the decision making. But in some situations, they might give only one parent legal custody.
Paying for Education
Private school education is expensive. If you want your child to attend a private school, then you should consider who will pay for it. You can include educational expenses as part of a child support order. Unfortunately, some parents do not think too far ahead and get stuck with a hefty tuition bill which they can’t afford. The other parent might also object to making a financial contribution. It’s always best to deal with this issue during the divorce when child support is being set.
Children with learning disabilities also have extra educational expenses. For example, your child might need one-on-one tutoring, which you pay for privately. Or they need extensive study prep to get ready for the SAT or similar tests. You should consider how you will allocate these expenses between you and your ex.
Costs of Extracurricular Activities
We might as well include a discussion of outside activities. Many children first gain exposure to athletics, band, art, or drama in school. They then want additional opportunities, such as attending basketball camp or drama camp. Parents should consider how they will pay for these expenses, which might be considerable. After all, participating in AAU teams might require out-of-state travel during the summer and weeks in a hotel.
Paying for College
Under Texas law, a parent’s financial obligation typically ends when a child graduates high school. Nonetheless, parents can voluntarily agree to pay for college expenses. A judge cannot force a parent to pay for a child’s college education, but the parent can sign a voluntary agreement which will serve as a binding contract.
College expenses are sometimes negotiated along with alimony or the division of community property. In exchange for agreeing to contribute to your child’s education, your ex might receive certain pieces of marital property that are important to them. That is a fair trade.
Our firm can help create a “college support agreement” as either a stand-alone document or as part of your marital settlement agreement. This agreement needs to be detailed so that there are no surprises. Some terms should include:
- A definition of what qualifies as “college” expenses. Technical school? Community college? Only a four-year college? Public or private?
- What expenses a parent will help cover. Tuition? Room and board? Transportation?
- How much the parent will contribute. A fixed amount? A percentage of college expenses?
- The duration of support. Only 2 years? 4 years? Longer?
- Any expenses you refuse to pay. Study abroad? Internship-related expenses? Graduate or professional school?
Parents should not sign an agreement like this if they are not 100% sure they want to contribute to college costs. This is a binding contract which judges will enforce.
Contact Us for More Information about Education and Divorce
Some parents unfortunately overlook educational issues in the run-up to divorce, being entirely focused on the critical issue of child custody. At Tad Nelson and Associates, we realize their importance and will talk with you about your goals for your child. Call our law firm if you want to schedule a consultation with our lawyers.