How will this divorced couple pay college bill?


Q. Let’s say parents are divorced. The mother’s father – a grandparent – is the owner of a 529 plan for grandchild. Each parent is responsible for half of the child’s tuition balance. If the balance is $3,000, and the grandfather gives $1,500 for tuition, can the father get credit for half, or $750?
— Invested

A. Based on the facts you present, it seems no, the father is not entitled to credit for one-half of the funds received from the grandfather.

Under New Jersey law, divorced parents have an obligation to contribute toward their children’s college costs, said Thomas Roberto, a family law attorney with Adinolfi, Molotsky, Burick & Falkenstein in Haddonfield.

He said in this case, it sounds as though the parties have an existing divorce settlement agreement or court order requiring them to equally divide the child’s college costs.

If that is the case, and assuming the agreement or order does not contain any provision to the contrary, it should not make any difference that mother’s contribution was given to her by the child’s grandfather, he said.

“The father would still have to pay his equal share of the child’s college tuition, and he would not have a claim to a portion of the funds mother obtained from grandfather to pay her share,” Roberto said. “Whether each parent pays their share of college costs out-of-pocket or via a loan or gift from a third party is largely irrelevant as far as the other parent’s contribution is concerned.”

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This story was originally published on Nov. 27, 2019. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.