Some divorced parents are surprised to learn that their financial obligation towards their children continues beyond age 18 until one of the typical emancipation events occurs, one of which is the graduation from a four-year college (and in some instances graduate school). New Jersey divorce attorney Sylvia S. Costantino provides an overview of the factors that the New Jersey Supreme Court states must be considered in a college contribution case:
• Ability of the obligated parent to pay
• Each spouses assets, income, debts and expenses
• The likelihood the parent would have contributed to higher education during the marriage
• Assets of the child
• Relationship to prior training of the child and the child’s long-term goals
• The degree to which the background, goals and values of the parent made college education a reasonable expectation
• The level of financial contribution requested
• Dedication and ability of the child to succeed in higher education
• Nature of the relationship between the paying parent and child
• Availability of financial aid
• Child’s capacity to earn money during summer or the school year
It is probably safe to assume that few parents could review this list of factors and have any idea whether they will be on the hook for the cost of their child’s higher education. However, the above factors are important to a court’s analysis of how much and how long you will be called upon to contribute to your child’s post-secondary tuition and expenses. However, remember that each case is factually distinct.
One approach is for parents to allocate the responsibility for college education in their Marital Settlement Agreement at the time of the divorce and include details such as:
• The type of college education contemplated (i.e. private school vs. public university)
• Contributions toward tuition or also other living expenses
• Maximum amount of contributions to the various forms of college expenses tuition, housing, food, books, etc.
• Any requirements on the child to attempt to contribute through summer jobs or school year employment
• Adequate progress and minimum GPA necessary for the obligation to continue
• What amount, if any, will be provided for entertainment, dining out and recreational expenses
• Manner of making the contributions
• The effect of college contribution on child support, including whether the child will be residing on campus.
When a child goes to college and his or her parents are divorced, one issue that comes up time and time again is what to do when a child rejects a parent and refuses to speak to them. Often the troubled relationship with one parent is due to “fallout” from the divorce. Another thorny issue is what happens to a parent’s obligation to contribute to college when that parent is excluded from the college selection and application process. In those cases, the parent being called upon to contribute to college may feel like they are being treated like a “human wallet.”
If you find yourself facing post judgment issues like college contribution and feel like you are in the dark, you should consult with a family lawyer to have the process explained to you including deciding whether an application needs to be filed with the Court or if mediation would be appropriate.
If you need legal advice your obligation to contribute to your child’s college education and what this means with respect to your child support obligation, you need an experienced family lawyer to walk you throught the process. Please contact Sylvia S. Costantino, Esq. today to schedule your free initial consultation at (732) 615-9100 or email us.
Our office is located in Holmdel Township in Monmouth County, NJ next to the Commons at Holmdel Shopping Plaza. We represent clients in the surrounding cities of Red Bank, Freehold, Marlboro, Manalapan, Holmdel, Old Bridge, East Brunswick, Jackson, Colts Neck, Aberdeen, Hazlet, Howell, Millstone, Wall, Edison, Red Bank, Fair Haven, Rumson, Long Branch, Belmar, and Ocean. Our practice extends throughout Monmouth County, Middlesex County, Ocean County, and Somerset County in New Jersey.
Sylvia S. Costantino
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