I'm hoping someone might have experience here that could help guide me. My ex and his wife share custody of my two daughters with my husband and I. We share custody equally so there is no "custodial" and "noncustodial parent." We've been sending my daughters to a Montessori school and sharing the tuition costs 50/50. My husband and I have a very different financial situation from my ex and his wife. Our combined household income is less than $40k/yr, while just my ex alone makes six figures and his wife makes almost as much. However, I've never complained about being overburdened by tuition costs, as to me, a good education is priceless. We make sacrifices gladly and we make it work.
That said, my oldest daughter is in 5th grade. My ex and his wife feel that they are done after this year with paying tuition. We live in one of the "best" public school districts in our area, but we had a bad experience with the public school here when my oldest went there for her first few years of school before switching to Montessori. Furthermore, DH is an alumnus of this school district and knows all its faults. Yet my ex and his wife think it's best that DD1 go to the public middle school next year, transitioning with all the other incoming 6th graders, even though she could stay at her Montessori school another year (it goes through 6th grade). They have reluctantly agreed to explore other options but they are not taking them very seriously, and have basically said that they wouldn't consider them unless she got a scholarship that would result in them paying significantly less than they are paying now (as close to zero as possible). Their rationale is that they want to put that money they've been spending on tuition into a college fund. While I appreciate that idea, I truly believe that having a superior education is a better investment in not only getting into college, but getting scholarship money and having the solid academic foundation to succeed in college. They also have a fixation with her needing a "social life" and a "normal" middle school experience. (But we're talking a huge HUGE middle school, when she's used to a class of 9 students--DH felt utterly lost there when he went to that middle school).
So here's where the problem lies: Almost all the private middle school options are much more costly than our Montessori school. Based on my husband and my financial situation we should qualify for aid. However when we go to SSS to apply for financial aid, I'm confused by the statement they make regarding divorced families. They say that both families are expected to contribute as much as they can afford. Well, how can they say that if both families aren't in agreement as to the necessity to go to private school??
Am I assuming too much that a judge would take public school as the default option and say that the family which doesn't want to pay private school tuition has no obligation to do so since they could send the child to public school for free?
I just don't know what to expect out of financial aid offers from the schools we've applied to, because based on our income, we should get significant aid, but based on theirs, we'd probably get none. SSS said our expected family contribution is zero. But if they think each family should contribute what they can afford, they will likely say that my ex and his wife could "afford" full tuition at any of these schools.
Does that mean we'd get no aid? Because if that's the case, it would be a deal-breaker since my ex would be unwilling to pay it, and there's no way DH and I could pick up the slack. I'm pretty sure they'd reluctantly go along with a private school if they didn't have to pay much of anything, but if they were, heaven-forbid, asked to contribute the same percentage of their income that we've been paying, they'd push the public school on us. And since they have the money, it seems they have the power to control this decision. How is that fair? Why should we be punished for their financial situation? If he weren't in the picture at all, we'd presumably get significant aid and be happy to pay as much for tuition as we possibly could. But with this policy SSS seems to be excluding divorced families who can't agree on prioritizing private schooling, and indirectly discriminating against low-income families.
Is there a work-around to this? Has anyone been through something similar?