By Robin Perrigo-Mermans, Esq. of ROAD to RESOLUTION
College planning with your children can be difficult and time consuming. If you’re a divorced parent, there’s another layer of complexity associated with the process. As a mother of two and stepmother of three, I can relate. My husband and I just went through this earlier this year – for the third and fourth time – with my son and his middle son. Over the past couple years, we’ve spent countless hours researching colleges, touring campuses, and helping with applications. For us, it’s a team effort. We are fortunate to have the input of our parenting partners, which has made the process easier on us and on our children.
I have a unique perspective on this complex topic since I’m also a divorce mediation and collaborative family law attorney. I offer professional guidance to families who are navigating the world of shared parenting and we discuss college planning quite often. Here are my top tips for co-parents who are helping their children plan for college:
Let Your Child Lead
While you and your parenting partner should be involved in the college process, you both need to remember that it is ultimately your child’s decision. Encourage them to take the lead when setting up college visits, filling out applications, and following up with schools. While this will make it easier on you and your parenting partner, it will also empower your child.
Coordinate College Tours
Talk to your co-parent about college visits and decide who will accompany your child. Sometimes, both parents are able to attend. However, if only one parent is able to go, consider creating a list of questions together. This will ensure both parents are involved in the process, even if only one is there.
Discuss Financial Commitments
While this can certainly be an uncomfortable conversation to have with your ex-spouse, it’s an important one. You’ll need to talk about how much each of you will commit to your child’s college education. If your child plans to apply for federal financial aid or private loans, be sure to get started on the process early. It takes time and will require input on financial situations for both parents.
My family and I are grateful to have the support of our children’s other parents. The additional planning and coordination are well worth it. It is my strong belief that having a positive relationship with your parenting partners is vital to setting your children up for success in college and adulthood.
Note: This feature is intended to be informational only and shall not be construed as legal advice.
Robin Perrigo-Mermans is a collaborative attorney and certified mediator. She owns ROAD to RESOLUTION, a divorce mediation and collaborative family law firm, in Charlotte. Due to her unique perspective as an attorney, mother, and stepmother, she is an expert in shared parenting solutions and co-parenting guidance. She is committed to using her personal story and passion to help her clients save time and money, while avoiding unnecessary emotional turmoil during their divorce journey and on their road to resolution.