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Saving for a child's college education after divorce

Many Arizona parents are concerned about paying for a college education for their children, but those concerns may grow if they get a divorce. An Ameritrade study found that despite around 40 percent of marriages ending in divorce, only around one-third of couples have a financial plan in place in case of divorce or the death of one spouse.

Divorce can create additional expenses for parents since they must maintain two households instead of one. Child support and spousal support take precedence over college savings. When parents do include paying for college in a divorce agreement, one cannot force the other to pay for an expensive private school. It is common for there to be a limit of five years on how long a parent will continue paying for a child's education, and graduate education is usually not included.

Some parents might already have a 529 plan to save for college, but if they do not, parents may want to start one. With a 529 plan, savings are tax-free, and money will not be taxed on withdrawal as long as it is used for education. However, since the parent who is the account owner can make withdrawals or change the beneficiary, parents may want to include the account's purpose in the divorce agreement.

Parents may want to try to negotiate this and other aspects of the divorce agreement instead of going to court. A judge will attempt to make decisions that are in the best interests of the child, but the conflict that a court battle can create may not be good for children. Successfully negotiating a divorce agreement may help parents start to create a healthy environment for a long-term co-parenting relationship. Parents might also use a parenting agreement to address any issues they are concerned about regarding consistent rules for raising the child.

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