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Heading Off To College – Managing Your Child’s Transition

Congratulations! Your child has been accepted to college. Whether your student will live on campus or commute, you are both about to embark on a new chapter of your lives together. The transition from teenager to independent adult can be very difficult for everyone. Add in a shared custody arrangement and this time can quickly become emotional and stressful.

Rhode Island law states that unless a child is disabled, custody terminates at age 18.  Transitioning a child to college or out of your home and into one of their own could be the last shared tasks that you formally manage as parents. Since college funding is such a large factor in making decisions about what school to attend, chances are good that you’ve developed a parenting plan for college or at least had conversations with your child’s other parent to discuss a plan for funding higher education. If you haven’t had this conversation yet, it is important to do so. Understanding what each parent plans to provide will allow for more effective budgeting, minimize surprises and help to ensure a smooth transition.

Experts suggest that planning ahead allows ample time for both you and your child to adjust to the idea that they will soon be leaving your home. This is a good time to teach children life skills, such as managing a checkbook, basic computer maintenance, cleaning, cooking and most importantly personal safety.

Communicate openly with your child about both of your expectations during this transition time. How much money will be spent on necessities for their new living space such as bedding, school supplies, computers and rent? All of these items become expensive quickly, and decision making will be much easier if your child knows what they are responsible for and what each parent will being providing.

It is important to be supportive of your child, be available for them to talk with you about their worries and dreams for this new stage of life. Keep an open line of communication so that you and your child can talk through issues together.  Remember that being supportive and hovering is a fine line that you don’t want to cross. In order for your child to learn, they will make mistakes. To do this, they need the room to do so knowing that both of their parents are available for help and support if needed. 

For assistance with developing a parenting plan to transition your child to college or to live on their own, contact your lawyer to discuss your personal situation.