One of a Divorcing Mom’s Top Headaches: Who Will Pay for College?

If you’re a divorcing mom—and even if your children are still very young—do not overlook including college expenses in your divorce settlement agreement

by Jeffrey A. Landers • Divorce Financial Strategist™ and the founder of Bedrock Divorce Advisors, LLC

In New York, many divorcing parents agree to limit their contribution to what is commonly referred to as the “SUNY Cap.” This cap limits a parent’s obligation to a percentage of the cost of a State University of New York (SUNY) school. In other words, regardless of where the child attends college, if the SUNY Cap is applied, the parent is obligated to pay only the amount specified in the cap. (Parents in other states may agree to limits based on tuition at state schools in their area.)

Even something as seemingly straightforward as a tuition obligation cap can make for intense negotiation, though. As Daniel Clement points out in his article Divorce and the Costs of College: Applying a SUNY Cap, courts can have broad jurisdiction here, and they have sometimes concluded that there is no basis to impose the SUNY cap.

As you can imagine, things get even more complicated in situations where custody of the children is split, and Mom has custody of one child (or some children), and Dad has custody of another (or others). In these cases, the courts generally want to see the numbers balance and that one parent is not unfairly burdened with college costs. Factors such as how much each parent earns, the tuition expenses and other child care costs are factored into the equation.

Please be aware that ascertaining the future costs of college can be very difficult, especially if your children are still young, and unfortunately, most divorce attorneys don’t have the training or expertise to compute complex projections of future college costs and what the present value of those future costs would be in today’s dollars. A consultation with a divorce financial planner can ease your headache and help you better understand all the options available as you plan for a stable financial future for you and your children.


Jeffrey A. Landers, CDFA™ is a Divorce Financial Strategist™ and the founder of Bedrock Divorce Advisors, LLC ( a firm which exclusively advises affluent women throughout the United States before, during and after divorce.  He assists women and their divorce attorneys with deciding on the most advantageous way to divide marital assets and enable them to negotiate more favorable settlements, especially when there are complicated financial and tax issues. Jeff also advises happily married women who have seen their friends blindsided by a divorce initiated by their husbands and wonder (wisely) how financially vulnerable they’d be in that situation. Jeff developed the nation’s first Just in Case(TM): Secure Your Financial Future,a one-hour program, which quickly shows married women how to be prepared in the event of a future divorce with immediate, practical steps. He can be reached at

All articles/blog posts are for informational purposes only, and do not constitute legal advice. If you require legal advice, retain a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author, who is not an attorney.

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Photo courtesy Lorraine Kourafas/Shutterstock

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