Is college education a necessity? To some, it may still be a matter of debate but not if you are judge in a New Jersey divorce court. Thirty five years ago, in the groundbreaking case of Newburgh v. Arrigo, the state’s Supreme Court decided that a parent’s obligation to provide an education extends through college. Since then, New Jersey has remained the nation’s most liberal when it comes to enforcing the parental duty to provide for a post-secondary education.
So how exactly do courts evaluate whether parents should contribute toward the cost of their children’s higher education? Each case, of course, comes with its own set of facts .These are the determining factors:
- Would the parent have still contributed if they still lived together?
- What are the background values and goals of the parent?
- How reasonable is the expectation that the child attend college? How committed is the child to attending? How capable?
- How much will it cost for the child to attend college? Is the parent able to pay?
- What are the financial resources of both parents?
- What are the financial resources of the child?
- Will the child be earning income during the school year or on vacation?
- What is the child’s relationship to the paying parent? Do they get along?
- Is the education being requested related to any prior training or the child’s long-term goals?
- Will there be financial aid?
For ongoing disputes, a full hearing will be scheduled. Relevant information and documents, such as tax returns and W-2s, will be exchanged. Each parent will be expected to submit a complete list of assets. The hearing itself will involve testimony from both sides, followed by a determination based on the above factors. Sometimes, the court might modify child support.
The Property Settlement Agreement
The final judgment, or property settlement agreement, should contain terms that clearly define each parent’s obligation to contribute to children’s college costs. The agreement may contain a specific provision that child support ends at a certain age. This does not, however, mean that the child is emancipated or no longer entitled to financial support. In fact, even with such a provision, a court can still order you to provide support. Without it, termination of support is completely determined by state law.
These types of provisions, their wording, and their inclusion in property settlement agreements are all the very reasons why anyone considering a divorce must hire an experienced family law attorney. Make sure that your rights are fully protected. Contact my office and schedule an appointment today.
Fabrikant Law, LLC prides itself on providing exceptional professional and personalized service. For assistance with your family law matter, please contact us today.