This is the last of my three part series addressing questions that divorcing parents may have about paying for their child’s college expenses.  We began by looking at the age when the formal obligation to pay  child support terminates. We then examined how an agreement can permit the parents to share in the expenses after divorce.  Today we’ll look three special considerations for children going to college after their parents' divorce.


1:  Financial aid is usually based on the custodial parents income.  The “custodial parent” is the parent with whom the student lived with most during the year before they attend college.  You should include this in the custodial agreement or parenting plan.  If the student is living equally with both parents, the parent providing the most support is the custodial parent.  Please remember that if the custodial parent has remarried, his or her spouse’s information is reported.  Financial aid may be maximized when the custodial parent has a lower income

 2: Since financial aid is based on the custodial parents income, the parties should be considering that issue when addressing spousal support.  A sudden increase in the custodial parent’s income could impact any financial assistance.

 3: We live in an area with many wonderful public, in-state schools.  Whether a child can apply for admission and pay in-state tuition will be different in each state.  Additionally, each school or university decides whether or not a student qualifies for in-state tuition.  Check with the university your child is planning to attend for their policies.  However, some basic guidelines for neighboring states is available. 

  • Virginia:   Your child may be eligible for  in-state residency status after a divorce even if the child resides in another state.  For example, consider the situation when a child wants to attend the University of Virginia or Virginia Tech.    If the father lives in Reston and pays child support, but the child lives in Jefferson County and attended high school in West Virginia, the child may be eligible for admission as an in-state student based on the father’s residency.  General information about Virginia schools is available by clicking here.   
  • Maryland:  Generally, a child must reside in Maryland for a period of 12 months prior to attendance to be eligible for in-state tuition.  Further information can be obtained here. 
  • West Virginia:  The child has in-state residency status after a divorce in West Virginia when the parent with whom the child resides lives in West Virginia.  WVU spells out their requirements here.  
  • District of Columbia:  In addition to attending UDC, residents of the District may also be eligible for a grant to offset out of state costs.  Residency of the students will be determined by the domicile of the parents.  To learn more about the DC TAG program, click here. To learn more about the DC residency requirements for UDC, click here
  • Pennsylvania:  Pennsylvania's residency requirements vary significantly from school to school.    It appears that Penn State construes the requirement to permit either parent to be domiciled in Pennsylvania  while Shippensburg State seems to base the decision on the basis of where the child resides.

Today's tip:  PLAN!  Regardless of how you decide to fund your child's higher education after divorce, the child will benefit when the parents work together to develop the best plan for your child to enjoy success in their educational endeavors.


This post is part of a three part series addressing how divorcing parents might address higher education costs.  Yesterday, we addressed the question:   “How long is a parent required to pay support?”   Today, we’ll consider whether divorcing parents should agree to share the costs of their children’s college. The laws in the states where I practice do not require parents to pay college costs, but parents can agree in their divorce agreement to share in the costs.   Consider several questions before entering into an agreement to be sure your agreement is in the best interest of your child and your family.

Read More