Figuring out child support is one of the most difficult agreements to come to when figuring out a divorce settlement. Who will pay for after school activities and health care and… college? When it comes to applying for college tuition financial aid, co-parenting can become even harder than it already might be.
CO-PARENTING AND APPLYING FOR COLLEGE TUITION
If you have a child, there will most likely come a point in your life where you have to deal with filling out applications for college financial aid. As college tuition has risen over the years, and with more and more kids going to college, it’s only an inevitable that you, as a parent, will have to deal with the application process. This application process is not a fun one, and one that can be even less fun when you have to factor in your divorce and co-parenting status.
FIGURING OUT CO-PARENTING
By now you might have figured out the co-parenting situation, but for those that haven’t, here’s a quick overview: If you share children with your ex-spouse, then you’ll have to learn how to be a co-parent. And this isn’t something you’re going to have to learn how to do by yourself. You’re going to have to learn how to do it with your ex! This means you’ll have to learn how to put the best interests of your children above your own, as well as learning how to form an amicable relationship, perhaps for the first time, with your ex. While you don’t necessarily have to become best friends, you’ll have to forge a happy medium and find how you can make the co-parenting relationship work. If you’re newly divorced, right now this may seem impossible, especially after what you just went through with your relationship, but you have to remember that the fault in your marriage wasn’t the fault of the child or children. They also must not be place in the middle of your emotional crossfire left over from your marriage. The key is to learn to take the high road, which means you may have to make true sacrifices for the well-being of your children.
STEP ONE IS TO REALIZE ONLY YOU ARE ABLE TO CONTROL YOU
In order to create a co-parenting relationship, you must first realize the only person you can control is yourself. You don’t have any power over your ex, so don’t even both trying. If you can accept this fact and are able to control your own emotions and actions, you’ll have an easier time developing a co-parenting relationship. Hopefully your example will carry over to your ex-spouse.
STEP TWO IS TO SET BOUNDARIES
The next step you must learn in order to create a successful co-parenting relationship is how to set boundaries. Hise are a few do’s and don’t’s to help you get started. Don’t:
- Sabotage the relationship your child has with their other parent.
- Use your child as a pawn to hurt or get back at your ex.
- Permit your child to speak badly when talking about the other parent.
- Use your child to get information, manipulate, and/or influence your ex.
- Transfer onto your child your hurt feelings and/or frustrations toward your ex.
- Force your child to choose a side whise scheduling conflicts occur.
- Put pressure on your child.
- Depend on your child for companionship or support too much when dealing with your divorce. Your child isn’t your thisapist.
- Become so emotionally needy your child begins to feel guilty about spending time with others. You would hate to discover they didn’t participate in social outings due to the fact they were afraid you weren’t able to deal with being alone.
Bottom line: Your child should not be burdened with situations they aren’t able to control. You shouldn’t saddle your children with your issues and emotional needs. Doing so will only create feelings of being helpless and insecure which could cause them to doubt their own abilities and strengths. It’s not their responsibility to hold you together and they shouldn’t feel it is. Children aren’t able to understand and deal with problems of adults and shouldn’t have to. Their focus should be on their own development, and your’s should be, too. Do’s:
- Sit down with your ex and create a plan whiseby differences are set aside so the focus can be put on meeting the needs of your children you will be co-parenting.
- Negotiate how to handle holidays, visitations, and events.
- Create guidelines for behavior of raising your children that each of you will adhise to. Children need consistency in their lives without regard as to which parent they’re with. This includes bed-times, phone privileges, etc. A child will frequently test situations and try to manipulate their boundaries. You and your ex must present a united front.
- Negotiate the roles of extended family members.
- Establish open communication with respect to the development of your child. This includes the ability to compare notes on situations and jointly deciding on any punishment.
- While it may be painful emotionally, you and your ex must decide to inform each other ob any changes in circumstances of their life. Your child shouldn’t be the source of “breaking news.”
- Determine that you’ll conduct yourself with emotional integrity and maturity.
WHAT YOUR CHILD NEEDS THE MOST
There are certain things that any child will need during this time: structure, acceptance, assurance of their safety, freedom from blame or guilt that they were responsible for their parent’s divorce, two stable parents, and the freedom and permission to just be a kid and have fun.
CO-PARENTING THROUGH THE COLLEGE FINANCIAL AID APPLICATION PROCESS
In establishing co-parenting relationships, we often talk about one thing: the ability to reach common ground because it is in your child’s best interest. Chances are you and your spouse can both agree that higher education is the step you want for your child. Therefore, you’re both going to need to work together to get the applications done. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as the FAFSA is the application you will need to fill out in order to apply for federally funded student aid.
One of the first things the application asks for is for you to list custodial parent. According to Tiffany and Clay Clem, two parents that are going through the process right now, that’s a loaded question. “‘Custody’ is not the legal meaning, not the tax meaning,” Clay explains. “If I am determined the custodial parent, my ex might get upset and say ‘What do you mean I am not custodial?!’ They should use a different word.” The FAFSA specifies “custody” as the parent with whom the child has lived for the most during the past year. When parents share joint custody, the FAFSA offers a second test to establish which household provided more financial support during the previous year. According to Clay, “that guidance is very ambiguous.”
DON’T GIVE OUT TOO MUCH INFO
When it comes to listing family members, make sure you don’t list everyone’s financial information. According to Scott Weingold, managing director of the College Planning Network, listing mom’s, dad’s, stepmom’s, and stepdad’s financial information can be a costly mistake. “You may be over-reporting your income,” Weingold says. When you list everyone on the application, even when it has not been asked for, it can make it appear as if you have more income than you truly do.“A family that could have gotten aid from a school may be getting nothing now because it looks like they have more money available than they do.” Weingold advises you only provide information for the custodial parent. If the custodial parent has remarried, you’ll need to supply the step-parent’s information. The FAFSA will also ask you to include how much child support is received.
WORKING THINGS THROUGH WITH A DIFFICULT EX
As Naomi Elliot knows, this process can be very difficult when the relationship between both parents is strained. Naomi has sought to have as little contact with her ex as possible. That’s why her and her son Simon decided that he only apply to schools that would base their financial aid decisions on the custodial parent’s income. She is the custodial parent and was unsure that Simon’s father would provide Simon with any money for college. “I couldn’t afford a penny of his education,” says Naomi, a real estate agent in Massachusetts. “The divorce wiped me out. I knew that I needed a financial package that was significant and didn’t ask me or my son to take out loans.”
DURING DIVORCE AGREEMENT
One thing that might help, is ensuring that the tuition debate is decided on during the divorce agreement. While this can be a very difficult part of the process, deciding on it sooner rather than later can help you avoid a hassle when the application time comes around.
WORKING WITH A DIVORCE ATTORNEY
A divorce attorney will work with you to help you decide how you want to tackle all elements of your marriage and divorce, while also providing guidance and support. They will be able to lead you through the process while keeping you from procrastination and caving into pressure. They’ll also be able to help ensure you meet all the required timelines while ensuring that you get a fair case and trial should you need to go to court. Lastly, they’ll be able to help you find the freedom and new life you are seeking – one that is entirely on your terms.
San Diego, CA 92101
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