BROOKLYN, New York. Parents might find themselves facing bills in the thousands of dollars when the time comes for their children to go to college. While parents may think that their children become legally independent when they turn 18, this is not technically the case when it comes to how the government calculates a parent’s college payment responsibility. The FAFSA calculates how much students should be expected to pay based on each parent’s income. This means that both your income and the income of your ex could potentially impact how much money your children get for college. It also means that you and your ex may be expected to contribute to your children’s educational expenses. How should divorcing couples handle this expense? What are common solutions?
According to the NY Daily Record, many divorcing couples are building something called a SUNY Cap into their divorce agreements. What is the SUNY Cap? Essentially, the SUNY Cap attempts to limit the required contribution of both parents to the cost of State University of New York tuition. Even if your child does not go to the state schools, or even goes out of state, the logic goes that the SUNY Cap can limit your contribution to what in-state tuition would have costed you. While this sounds like a great way to control the costs of education and help divorcing couples better predict their college financial burdens, the SUNY Cap has its pitfalls and limitations.
Under New York law, parents can be required to contribute to their children’s educational expenses. Parents who have the resources, the background, and the income, may be required to pay for a child’s private education, even if the child is over 18.
Parents who want to use the SUNY Cap to limit their expenses should speak to a qualified divorce lawyer. The language you put into your divorce agreement can determine whether the agreement will be binding should a dispute arise later. For example, parents may need to stipulate which SUNY college they want to use to base the cap upon. Different schools in the in-state system charge differently for tuition. Parents may also need to determine whether they want to base the cap on tuition as it stands upon the signing of the divorce agreement or based on tuition as it stands when children go to college.
Finally, it is important to understand that putting a SUNY Cap provision into your divorce agreement won’t guarantee that the cap will limit how much you have to pay. According to the NY Daily Record, there is no court precedent showing that judges rule in favor of a SUNY Cap. So, a SUNY Cap can be beneficial, only if both you and your partner agree that it is the best way to plan for college and manage your expenses. Should you need to fight for the cap in court, it isn’t clear if a judge will rule in your favor—especially if one parent starts earning more money or if they could afford more according to the FAFSA.
For many middle-class families, the cost of college is prohibitively high. According to the New York Times, more families are sending their children to lower-cost 2-year institutions. In many cases, children can transfer after the first two years to top-ranking 4-year institutions. Even parents who earn six figures are sending their children to community college, because of the savings. Parents who are divorced and who are considering the cost of college might want to fill out the FAFSA to determine their financial obligations. Even parents earning six figures might receive some aid for their children, especially at the most expensive private institutions.
If you have questions about what you should do about paying for college in your divorce agreement, or if you have a divorce agreement that isn’t clear about how college payment should be handled, consider speaking to the divorce lawyers at the Elliot Green Law Offices in Brooklyn, New York. Our firm may be able to help you navigate this complex family law issue. Visit us at https://www.elliotgreenlaw.com/ to learn more.
Elliot Green Law Offices
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Brooklyn, NY 11201