- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 10, 2008

When my husband, formerly a widower, and I, formerly divorced, were married five years ago, we thought we had all the boxes checked when it came to discussing our big life goals, values and dreams. In our eyes, we had covered all of the bases before we walked down the aisle with my two stepdaughters as the maids of honor and my two sons and stepson as the groomsmen.

The list of topics included finances, check; retirement goals, check; philosophies on sending our kids to college, check. We definitely agreed we wanted to pay for our five kids’ college educations, and that box was checked with satisfaction.

A few years later when the college application process for my oldest stepdaughter began, we discovered we barely had scratched the surface in our premarital discussions. While we had wholeheartedly agreed on paying for our kids’ college educations, we realized we had two very different approaches of how we were going to accomplish this. We eventually got through our differences, and she graduated proudly with honors, but it was painfully clear in hindsight that we hadn’t fully explored all of our issues in advance.

Confident that a smoother road lay ahead this time around, I recently accompanied my oldest son on his first college visit to the beautiful campus of the University of Virginia. During the welcome speech given by the admissions office, I was impressed by the school’s rich history and intrigued by the more than 500 diverse student clubs about which they boasted; one of which, the Disciples of Bob Barker, makes an annual trek to California to be on “The Price is Right.”

As the speaker turned to financial aid issues, it struck me that this road probably was going to have a lot more bumps. Again, that question appeared - how are we going to pay for this? Like many remarried people, I co-parent with an ex. Talk about having different philosophies!

With every new facet of the campus tour, another question smacked me in the face. How many applications will we allow my son to submit? Can we afford the college of his choice? Where will he live? Will he need a car? Would we encourage our child to work in addition to going to school? Many parents of children about to enter college have these questions during college tours, so what’s so different for parents who have remarried?

When going through divorce, many people often think or hope they will not have to communicate (or at least not have to work very hard at communicating) with their ex, especially as the children get older and more independent. Communication with an ex, however, does not usually end the day your child turns 18. There are still issues, such as who is going to drive your child to college. Many people don’t relish the thought of traveling with their ex in this scenario. What happens if one parent only supports attendance at an in-state school while the other is OK with an out-of-state school?

Parents who live in different states also can pose problems. On the brief Thanksgiving break, does the child visit the parent in Florida or the parent in D.C.? Sure, the child is an adult and can make the choice, but this scenario doesn’t make for a happy ending for the person forced to choose between parents.

Even if one parent designates Thanksgiving on a different day, that doesn’t guarantee school calendars will line up, or that exams won’t be on that day. I would bet the stress of choosing is enough to make more than one student go home with a roommate for holidays.

Bearing in mind that the student should remain the parents’ primary focus, and that adults should act as adults, it would seem that the best course of action for divorced parents preparing to send their child off to college is to communicate early and in depth. The high school years may be too late to begin such communication because it may not leave time to save enough money.

Right about now I’m thinking I’d rather be with the Disciples of Bob Barker determining whether a different type of price is right.

Paula Bisacre, founder of Remarriage LLC, is the publisher and executive editor of reMarriage magazine (www. remarriagemagazine.com), a quarterly publication that provides practical solutions for the growing remarriage community. She can be reached at publisher @remarriagemagazine.com.

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