How do college expenses factor into property division?

When a Florida couple are preparing to divorce, there are numerous issues that demand the attention of both parties. It’s easy to overlook less common aspects of property division. An example is found in college savings, which should be addressed during the negotiation process. 

Most college savings plans, such as 529 accounts, are held in only one parent’s name, even if both parents have contributed to the account for many years. Other savings vehicles include custodial accounts, college savings accounts and uniform minor accounts. Parents need to discuss how those savings will be maintained and increased after the divorce. 

Unless an agreement is made and documented in writing, one spouse could simply refuse to contribute to college savings efforts. That could leave the other party holding the bag, and could eventually impact a child’s ability to get the education for which he or she has worked so hard. On the other hand, if provisions are not discussed during a divorce, unused college savings can end up in the pocket of only one spouse.

The best way for Florida couples to ensure a fair property division outcome is to negotiate these matters early in the process. Even if a verbal agreement is reached concerning college savings and ongoing funding, be sure to cement that agreement in writing. Failure to do so can yield unexpected and unpleasant consequences, including forcing a child to take on a heavy debt load to obtain a college education. Ironing these details out in advance allows everyone involved to focus on celebrating the student’s success as college nears — not stressing over financial matters and placing blame. 

Source:, “How are employer benefits and other unique assets divided in a divorce case?“, Michael C. Craven, Dec. 27, 2017

FindLaw Network
The Florida Bar | Board Certified
Super Lawyers
Peer Review Rated For Ethical Standards & Legal Ability | AV Preeminent | Martindale-Hubbell from LexisNexis 2020
AFLP | Association of Family Law Professionals
Bar Register | Preeminent Lawyers | 2020 Martindale-Hubbell