College Scholarships and Divorce – Who Has to Pay?

We wrote a recent blog about children’s student loans and divorce. But what about children’s scholarships? How are those handled?  

Unlike other states, parents in PA do not have a financial obligation to pay college tuition.  However, to reduce conflict, you may want to negotiate tuition payments as part of your divorce process.  The effect of scholarships on college costs should be part of the negotiations before settlement. A “motion to modify” can be filed afterwards, but this can be a difficult and time-consuming process, so it is best if all contingencies are considered before the divorce is settled. Here we will consider several possible scenarios.

GI Bill

A parent who has been in the military is able to transfer his or her Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to a spouse or child, under certain circumstances. If the military person is the father, for instance, he may negotiate that this will cover his portion of college expenses for several children, or perhaps decrease child support payments. But since the transfer can be revoked at any time while he is still on active duty, a settlement or final judgment must either prohibit the revoking of the transfer or provide for compensation in the way of payment, alimony, or another benefit of equal or greater value.

Parent works for a university

Universitites often offer significant tuition discounts to their employees’ children. This should also be part of the settlement. Contingencies must also be included in case the parent leaves the university, changes universities, or the child does not wish to attend that university where their parent works. In these cases, what is each parent’s responsibility? And will the discount reduce just that parent’s educational responsibilities, or will the benefits be spread between the two parents? These and other questions need to be considered and answered in the settlement.

Other scholarships

Additional scholarships are available as well, including many scholarships for the children of divorced parents. The divorcing couple needs to decide how this will impact the final amount each one is responsible for. If one parent works diligently with the child to find as many scholarships as possible and the other parent does nothing, do the scholarships benefit just the parent who worked so hard or do they reduce the responsibility of both parents?

There are no set laws regarding division of the benefits of scholarships, therefore this needs to be carefully reviewed and defined in the divorce settlement. We at Ulmer Law have extensive experience helping parents navigate all the intricate details involved in creating a settlement that provides for their children as best they can while covering their own assets. Contact us for a consultation.