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Some co-parents look towards their child’s eighteenth birthday as the finish line for their parenting plan and custody schedule. However, if your child is planning to pursue post-secondary education, there may be additional coordination that is still required as they progress through their studies.
Applying to Colleges
The college application process begins at the research phase, which will often happen in conversations between both homes. Determine who will take the child on college visits or who will organize the tours. One parent can be responsible for all visits, co-parents can split the visits, or visits be based on the pre-determined custody schedule. If the situation allows, this is an excellent opportunity for both parents to attend together. While your senior students are the ultimate decision-makers on their future, they will still look to their parents for guidance, advice, and support.
Communication between the student and co-parents throughout the application process is essential. While the student will ultimately be responsible for meeting deadlines and coordinating their applications, ensuring both parents know the different timelines can eliminate stress and frantic last-minute decisions. By keeping open lines of communication with a coparenting tool like TalkingParents, you can keep each other informed about what your child has done for the application process and which schools they plan to visit.
FAFSA, Scholarships, and Financial Aid
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA, is something that families fill out to get low-interest federal student loans, grants, work-study, and other things to reduce college costs. The custodial parent or one who has physical custody is the one who fills out the form. However, if parenting time is split 50/50, then whichever parent contributed more to the financial support of the child over the past twelve months will sign the application.
Another piece of the puzzle to consider is whether either parent has remarried because in some cases the stepparent’s information can be included in what is provided to FASFA.
More Than Tuition
When it comes to college, tuition prices are only a piece of the puzzle. Some other costs you may want to consider include:
- Rent, dorm room fees, or other living expenses
- Laptops or other technology needs
- Food plans or groceries
- Healthcare or medical expenses
- Transportation at school and to-and-from home
In addition to your parenting plan and child support documentation, consider creating a college savings and payment plan. This can include opening a 529 college savings account when the child is young. When creating your college agreement, consider what expenses you and the co-parent are willing to cover, how much of those expenses each parent will cover, and if there are any guidelines or expectations regarding the type of school your child can attend.
Approaching the topic of college tuition and logistics can be difficult, especially if you are only days away from applications coming due and your child is turning eighteen. If communication is a challenge or you believe that your co-parent will be unwilling to have a productive conversation, consider hiring a mediator to facilitate the discussion.
Holidays and Time Off
College is a time when your children will get the chance to experience freedom and step into adulthood. They are likely going to meet new friends, see new places, and begin to figure out what they would like to do in their twenties. While this time is very exciting for them, it is an adjustment for parents as well.
Your kids will need to figure out when they will visit you and when they will spend time with your co-parent. While they are away at college, they will need to find times to communicate with you both as well.
Be flexible and accept that these changes are going to happen. You will inevitably spend less time in person with your kids, but you will be able to make the most of the time you have with them under your roof over the school holidays.
Empowering Your Student
As this is one of your child’s first adult decisions and adventure, you can help them gather information in the application process but try not to enforce your opinion too strongly on their final choice. Speaking to college advisors and school counselors can be a great way to get the full picture of options your student has ahead.
Additionally, providing your student with financial planning tools and resources can help them understand the cost of college. You can also learn more about the scholarships available and encourage them to apply for college transition programs.
A co-parenting communication tool like TalkingParents will remain relevant and helpful into your child’s college years. You can coordinate school and visit schedules to ensure that both parents are on the same page and transfer tuition funds using Accountable Payments℠. The accountability and documentation of each feature eliminate guesswork and misunderstandings between co-parents, helping you stay focused on getting your child the best possible post-secondary education.
TalkingParents blogs are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Always consult with a qualified attorney regarding legal matters.