New Jersey is one of the few states in the country that still requires divorced parents to pay for their children’s higher educations. The term "divorced parents" is highlighted because married parents do not have the same obligation to pay for their children’s college education if they choose not to do so. This distinction has lead some to argue that New Jersey’s laws are unconstitutional. That is the topic for another day.
That said, the answer to the questions posed in the title of this post is maybe. That is, parents of divorced children may not only have to contribute to their children’s college educations, but graduate school as well.
That was one of the topics of an unreported (non-precedential) case decided by the Appellate Division on December 10, 2009. Specifically, in the case of Mulcahey v. Melici, the Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s decision not to emancipate the parties’ child who had graduated from college, require the payment of child support to continue and requiring the payment of graduate school expenses.
The issue regarding contribution to graduate school became moot but the appeal followed anyway. The Appellate Division noted that:
As to the continuation of her education, the judge concluded that the daughter demonstrated "the aptitude and motivation for graduate school study." He also concluded that the parties were able to contribute, although that determination was rendered moot by the daughter’s securing financial assistance.
Though not mentioned in this case, if one or both parents have graduate degrees, that is a factor that could suggest the payment of graduate school for the children if the financial ability to pay was present. On the other hand, I have actually heard a judge, now retired, rule from the bench that he believed that he owed his children a college education, and anything beyond that was on them, when denying one parent’s application to compel the other to pay for law school for the parties’ child.
The bottom line is that graduation from college may not be the proverbial "light at the end of the tunnel" ending a divorced parent’s support obligation.