What To Do With Your Child’s College Fund During Divorce

Posted August 28, 2015 in Family Law by Jillian Green.

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August 28, 2015
What To Do With Your Child’s College Fund During Divorce
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With the rising cost of colleges around the nation, many parents have planned ahead for their children’s future and have started college savings accounts for their children shortly after birth. However, there is no question that tensions rise surrounding financial matters during divorce. Nonetheless, when it comes to a child’s college fund there needs to be a process of communication for the sake of the child’s educational and financial future.

In order to make communication easier, a framework should be set up during the divorce settlement process. Usually the hardest, and initial question, to address during the creation of the framework, is who will own the college savings plan (or 529).

As many parents know, a 529 plan is an education savings plan that is operated by a state or educational institution designed to help families set aside funds for future college costs. While many parties believe that a 529 plan is their child’s asset, it is actually an asset of the marriage and needs to be planned accordingly. Thus, parties need to discuss who will own the 529 plan. There are several options for the parties: 1) parents may either decide who will take individual control of the account, 2) freeze the account, or 3) split the account

1. Individual Control

If the parties decide to have one parent take individual control, that parent would be the only person who can make decisions regarding the use of the funds. It is recommended by experts for the control to go to the noncustodial parent. As certified financial planner Joe Orsolini says, “The noncustodial parent should own the 529 because the noncustodial parent’s assets and income are not included on the FAFSA. If the custodial parent owns the 529, then the value of the 529 will be included on the FAFSA, and this is especially important as the FAFSA asset protection allowance drops significantly next year.” This drop potentially means that families will be able to subtract less of their assets held in savings and investments from their net worth, which could decrease the student’s financial aid eligibility. If the non-controlling parent wants some security with the funds, he or she could be set up as an authorized user, which would allow him or her to see what is going on in the account and that parent should also be designated as the successor owner of the account.

2. Freezing the Account

Another option is freezing the funds, which would mean deposits are no longer made into the account and the money that is frozen in the account could only be designated for education purposes. Freezing the account prevents a former spouse from withdrawing money at any time for any reason. It also prevents a parent from using account funds to pay for the education of a child from a new marriage.

3. Split the Account

The last option is to split the 529 plan, which the judge can order and the state has to abide by. By splitting the plan, each half of the plan would be set up as a new account and owned by each individual spouse. However, if one party is worried about an irresponsible ex-spouse, he or she could set forth some clear language in the divorce decree that specifies funding to be used only for the child’s education. The court could also mandate the percentage that each parent will contribute toward the child’s education.

This divorce process is already difficult enough for all parties involved. Children should not be additionally burdened by the lack of a proper framework for their college education. For this reason, parents need to communicate and set up a proper plan for their child’s educational and financial future in order to ensure their child’s success for college.

If you have any questions about planning your child’s college funds during divorce or any other issue, the Certified Family Law Specialists at Lonich & Patton have decades of experience handling complex family law matters. Please contact the Certified Family Law Specialists at Lonich & Patton for further information.  Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results.  While this post may include legal issues, it is not legal advice.  Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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August: The Month of Child Support Awareness

Posted August 7, 2015 in Family Law by Michael Lonich.

“Children are the best part of ourselves-the sum of our past and the promise of our future, the guarantee that our lives and values and dreams will flourish long after we are gone,” said then President Bill Clinton when he made an official declaration in 1995 that recognized the month of August as Child Support Awareness Month.

Child Support Awareness Month is a time to highlight the vital role child support plays in the well-being and lives of millions of families in the United States. “Child Support Awareness Month is a time to salute parents who work hard to ensure their children grow up in stables homes and look forward to a bright future,” stated Yolo County Public Information Officer Beth Garbor. “It is also a time to help remind parents who are not always present that they are an important part of their children’s lives.”

Child support has become a widespread problem in the United States. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2009 report: among the 6.9 million custodial single parents who were awarded child support in 2009, only 41.2% received all of the child support that was due- a 46.8% decrease from 2007.

When a non-custodial parent does not pay the child support order, it likely means that his or her children are missing out on income that they count on and will have to sacrifice accordingly. For many children, these monthly payments are all that stands between them and poverty.

“Children who receive support from both parents tend to do better in school and tend to have fewer behavioral problems through their lives,” said Yolo County Department of Child Support Services Director Natalie Dillon. “This support comes in many forms; emotional, mental, and financial.”

If you have any questions about child support or any other issue, the Certified Family Law Specialists at Lonich & Patton have decades of experience handling complex family law matters. Please contact the Certified Family Law Specialists at Lonich & Patton for further information.  Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results.  While this post may include legal issues, it is not legal advice.  Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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