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Will a divorce when your child is in college hurt the child?

It may seem as if there is never a good time for your divorce. For instance, perhaps you were almost ready three years ago, but your mother came down with serious health problems. You had to care for her. Meanwhile, your oldest child started college. Your mother has recovered, but with your child in college, is divorce a good idea? After all, both parents have to cut back on financial expenses.

The answer: A divorce when your child is in college is not necessarily harmful. A lot depends on your situation.

Younger children's needs come first

College may be what is stressing you out about divorcing now, but remember that your younger children's needs come first. Can you and your spouse, after divorce, still afford to pay adequately for their clothing, food, shelter and so on? If yes, then almost everything else could be doable.

Scale of college experience

Another consideration is what type of college experience your oldest child is having, namely the tuition bills and the cost of room and board. If your child is attending school within, say, 30 miles, you could consider a live-at-home arrangement instead of paying for your child to live in the dorms.

Other children who may be headed to college

If your oldest is getting something like an out-of-state experience at a highly rated school, but the divorce means that your other children may have to attend community college and live at home, that can breed resentment among the children. Just keep that in mind when you look at the big picture so you can minimize any negative consequences.

Parental philosophies

It helps if you and your spouse are on the same page as to how much responsibility parents should take on for college costs. Otherwise, the divorce might be more contentious than it has to be. If you are using something such as a 529 plan to pay, your situation could be fairly easy.


Open communication with all of your children can ease virtually any issue. Lifestyle cutbacks may be coming their way, but it is often better to explain upfront what they can expect and how it will affect them rather than keep them in the dark until the very last minute. Give them as much control as possible over their lives.

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