While some couples may plan for their kids to go to college when they are together, divorce may complicate the process. One spouse may renege on an agreement or the couple may have never discussed the issue, thinking that they had plenty of time left to save. However, divorce mediation can help spouses to reach a mutual agreement concerning this important topic.
There are several ways that divorce mediation can assist in the process of establishing guidelines for college savings. A mediator can help establish a framework for the spouses to work with. The spouses may agree to freeze any existing 529 college savings account. Taking this step allows the spouses to split each account when it is needed and determine how much additional funds each parent would need to bring to the table to pay for his or her child's education. However, taking this step would also mandate that deposits would cease on the account and that funds in it could only be used to pay for educational needs for the children.
Another item for parents to discuss is how any additional funds should be used after the children's education has been paid for. A parent may be able to use the funds for his or her own educational goals or another sibling may be able to absorb the funds. Parents may also disagree about what type of investment decisions should be made regarding the account. Parents may disagree about the type of risk that they are willing to take on regarding their children's educational account. A court may split an account into two separate accounts so that each parent will have total say over one of the new accounts. Additionally, the court can also order that each parent pay a specific percentage of the child's education.
When parents are going through a difficult transition because of a divorce, they may consult with a divorce mediator. This individual may be able to provide an objective opinion regarding important issues pertaining to the couple's children.
Source: US News, "Discuss College Savings During Divorce Process", Rayna Gobel, April 29, 2013