Divorce, College and Conflict Management

 Vicki Vollweiler
November 11, 2020

Divorce, College and Conflict Management.

Vicki Vollweiler

The topic of College, while filled with elation for our children, is often filled with confusion, dread, fear and very often, conflict, not only amongst divorcing or divorced parents, but also with the children whom of course the parents love very much.

So what is it about this exciting time in our children’s lives that causes so much chaos?  There are quite a few reasons!

Divorce, College and Financial concerns play a huge role!

Who will pay for college?  How will I pay for college?  Or, how much will each parent/child be expected to pay?  Who will be responsible to take out student loans?  What about existing 529 plans?  What about Grandma’s savings account meant for Junior?  What if my child wants to attend a private college that costs $75K per year?!?  What actually are all of the costs for college that I need to consider that I’m not even aware of?  All of these unknowns are certain to cause large amounts of financial stress and anxiety with many of these concerns specific to only divorced and divorcing families.  Therefore, family and friends may truly not understand all that you are feeling from a financial perspective…

Emotional concerns factor in too!

As separated or divorced parents, each of you has to learn to again function as an individual instead of as part of a married couple, often times separation anxiety comes along and creeps in among parent and child as the child heads off to college!  Just like when the children were little and heading off to school for the first time, now they are growing up and may be living away from home for the first time.  The anxiety, though, is not being felt by the child.  This time, it is for the parents to grapple with.  So, the parent may feel as if first their spouse left them and now their child is leaving them too!

And then there is “General Divorce Chaos”!

For those who are separated or divorced, life is likely right now filled with many changes and much uncertainty.  It is very natural and completely expected to feel overwhelmed, especially around the holidays.  The topic of “divorce and college” is just one more complexity to be dealt with.

So what should you do to try to reduce the feelings of stress and overwhelm?  There are key steps that can be taken at any time, but may certainly be useful around the holidays to diffuse stress and conflict concerning the topic of divorce and college.

  1. Speak with both the other parent and the child.  Discuss common goals.  Try to all get onto the same page so that the child (and the other parent) know expectations.  If you and the other parent cannot afford to pay $75K per year of college, the child should know this sooner, rather than later.
  2. Set expectations for going forward regarding the holidays.  You and your co-parent likely both understand that your child is growing up.  When the child is in college, it will likely be up to the child to set their holiday plans.  Perhaps start the conversation now…
  3. Take control of the process.  If you have not already done so, reach out to the high school’s guidance counselor to discuss some college planning options for your child.  Then speak with a College Financial Aid Specialist knowledgeable about working with divorced families to help with the financial concerns and saving money on the cost of college so that both parents can benefit.
  4. If your child is already in college, agree to work together with a College Financial Aid Specialist, who can help you to both save money on the cost of college due to your change in family circumstances.
  5. If possible, speak with your legal representatives to discuss the inclusion of college costs within your divorce agreement.  The inclusion now, will hopefully reduce any conflict in the future.

Lastly, know that you are a great parent and that you raised your child right.  Know that you have done your job well and that as our children go onto college and leave the nest, we have given our children both our love and the ability to fly.  Our children are not leaving us.  Rather, they are expanding their wings so that they can soar!

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