We know that children are dependent on their parents for longer than ever before – sometimes well into their twenties. As I stated in an earlier blog post on this issue, which can be found here, currently, over 45% of 26-year-olds live at home with their parents. Many of these young adults have graduated
So you are divorced and your child is going off to college. What is the best way to get the other parent to contribute, whether there is an agreement that says he should or the agreement says that the issue shall abide the event. Should you A) consult prior to college and keep the other parent in the loop and then make a motion if you cannot agree before the child goes off ot college; B) make a unilateral decision then file your motion; or C) wait until the child graduates and when the other parent makes a motion for emancipation, hit him with a cross motion asking him to pay his share of a six figure college bill? Obviously, A is the preferred method, B is a worse method and C is a method that may risk you not getting re-paid.
As we learned from the Supreme Court a few years ago in Gac v. Gac, a former husband was not required to contribute toward his child’s college education expenses, because neither his ex- wife nor his child requested financial assistance from him until after he sought to terminate child support and the child had graduated from college. The Coourt found that their failure to make such request at time that would have enabled the father to participate in child’s educational decision as well as to plan for his own financial future weighed heavily against ordering him to contribute to the child’s educational expenses after her education was completed.
As the philosopher George Satayana said, those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. That is what happened in the unreported (non-precedential) case of Fletcher v. Euston decided on June 11, 2013. The facts of this case are similar to Gac and the worst case noted above. However, the parties’ divorce agreement did provide that the parties would share the cost of college based upon their financial ability at the time. In response to the Husband’s motion for emancipation, the ctrial court ordered him to reimburse the former wife over $111,000. The Husband appealed.…
Continue Reading If You Want the Other Parent to Pay for College, Don't Wait Until Graduation to Seek Contribution
The number of college graduates living with their parents has almost doubled since 2007. Currently, over 45% of 26-year-olds live at home with their parents. The figures highlight the difficulty that many young Americans have had in establishing careers following the longest recession this country has faced since the Great Depression. Some children, although employed,…
When there is a hostile relationship or a non-existent relationship between a child and a non-custodial parent, there is a possibility that the non-custodial parent may be relieved of the obligation to contribute towards college expenses. In my prior blog, I discussed the impact of college financial support when the child won’t speak with the non-custodial parent.
After the blog was posted, many asked me whether or not a deteriorated relationship between a child and a non-custodial parent could result in the termination of the non-custodial parent’s child support obligation. The answer is almost always NO the child support obligation will not be terminated even if the child refuses to have a relationship with the non-custodial parent. (Note, however, where a custodial parent encourages such a circumstance or is the cause of the circumstance, continued custody of the custodial parent may be significantly impacted.)
Strictly for child support purposes, if the child has not moved “beyond the sphere of influence and responsibility” of the custodial parent and has not obtained “an independent status of his or her own”, the child would not be emancipated and the non-custodial parent would continue to have a duty of child support. Under this inquiry, unless the child is a celebrity and making their own appreciable amount of income, clearly any child under the age of eighteen and/or still a high school student will have not achieved an independent status. Therefore, if the child and non-custodial parent never see each other, never speak or the relationship is hostile, the non-custodial parent still has a duty to support that child.
For a non-custodial parent, the rejection of a child is one of the most stressful and hurtful situations regardless of whether the deterioration in the relationship is the child’s fault, the custodial parent’s fault, the non-custodial parent’s fault or a combination of all three. Unfortunately, the bitterness often escalates when the child and custodial parent seek financial contribution for the child’s college education. Many non-custodial parents in these types of situation question whether or not they are legally obligated to contribute towards the college expenses of a child who refuses a relationship with them.
In Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529 (1982), the New Jersey Supreme Court established twelve factors that a court shall examine in evaluating a claim for a contribution by a parent towards the costs of their child’s higher education. While all twelve factors must be weighed by the Court, a common issue raised by the non-custodial parent relates to factor eleven:
11. The child’s relationship to the paying parent, including mutual affection and shared goals, as well as responsiveness to the parental advice and guidance.
Many litigants assume that if there is a deterioration in the relationship between a non-custodial parent and a college-bound child, the non-custodial parent’s obligation to contribute towards college is terminated. However, in Gac v. Gac, 351 N.J. Super. 54 (App. Div. 2002), the Appellate Division held that while there are circumstances in which a child’s rejection of their parent would warrant a dismissal of any obligation on their part to contribute to the child’s college costs, a child’s rejection of a parent’s attempt to establish a relationship does not immediately eradicate that parent’s obligation to contribute to college costs. For purposes of determining college contribution, the analysis is not simply whether there has been a breakdown in communication but whether a non-custodial parent can be required to contribute to his or her children’s college costs when communication between parent and child has been severed and, as a result, the parent has not been part of the college selection process or the child’s college progress.
At the start of the week when most parents who have college students are writing that second semester check (gulp), the Appellate Division has decided a non precedential case in which a father objected to the trial court’s decision to make him pay 27% of his daughter’s college expenses at a private college. The case brings to the forefront situations in which the realities of limited available income come head to head with obligations for college expenses. Throw in a poor relationship between one parent and the college student, and you have a mess.
In the case of Caruso v. Whitlock, the father’s income was such that his basic child support obligation under the child support guidelines had been reduced as a result of the self support reserve. The self support reserve is a calculation in the child support guidelines which ensures that the obligor has sufficient income to maintain a basic subsistence level. So in other words, after child support, the obligor has to have left an amount which is 105% of the US poverty guideline.
The child in this case was enrolled in Rider University, a small private university without input from the father, with whom she did not have a good relationship. Both parents blames the other for the poor relationship. The judge took some testimony from the parties on the issues, but there was not a formal hearing. The daughter preferred a smaller college as opposed to Rutgers, the State University. The father stated that he wanted his daughter to go to college. The child received minimal financial assistance from the college and had some limited assets of her own.
The trial court ordered the father to pay 27% of the net college expenses which was based on the percentages from the child support worksheet that had been used the year before in an application for unreimbursed medical expenses. This came to approximately $6860 per year.
As many parents get ready to send their children off to college, those who are collecting child support from a non custodial parent wonder how their child support may be affected. The New Jersey Child Support Guidelines are applicable when computing child support for children who are less than 18 or more than 18 and attending high school and living at home. What, then, happens to child support when a child leaves for college? The guidelines specifically state that they should not be used to determine parental contributions for college or other post secondary education. As an exception, they may be applied when a child is living at home and commuting to college. Over the years, courts have taken an inconsistent view as to how child support should be calculated for children living away at school. In the recent, published ( precedential) case of Jacoby v. Jacoby, the NJ Appellate Division addressed this issue.
In the Jacoby case, the parties who were divorced had two children. When the oldest matriculated at college, the non-custodial father moved to reduce his child support obligation to Ms. Jacoby since the child no longer resided in his mother’s house. The trial judge granted his application, and reduced the child support by employing a formula in which the judge calculated child support for two children, and then one child. The judge then took the difference of these two sums and determined 38% of the difference and 25% of the calculated remainder These two sums were then added and set as support. Essentially, what the trial court did was to recognize that child support is comprised of three broad categories: fixed costs – those costs that are incurred even when child is not residing at home. An example is housing related expenses; variable costs – those costs which are incurred only when the child is with the parent ( food is an example); and controlled Costs – costs which are incurred by the primary caretaker of the child, such as clothing and entertainment. The court then presumed there was a lower amount of variable and controlled costs when the child was away at college and reduced support accordingly.
When the second child matriculated, Mr. Jacoby again sought a reduction. A different judge heard the application and denied Mr. Jacoby’s request. He then appealed.
We are in the season that High School seniors and their parents suffer from college anxiety. Figuring how to pay that tuition bill is stress enough in a two parent, happy household. In cases of divorced or separated parents, it can be overwhelming. Spring is when I receive most inquiries from clients about the payment of college tuition …
I previously blogged about a case in which a father appealed a decision by the trial court for him to contribute towards college expenses for his two children. To review that prior blog, click here. The fifth ( yes, fifth) appeal on the same issues was recently decided. In Tafaro V, the Appellate Division…
An often addressed issue between divorcing parents is who is going to pay for the children’s college education and related expenses, and in what proportion. When the issue is litigated, a court will generally look to the twelve factors enunciated in the Supreme Court’s 1982 Opinion of Newburgh v. Arrigo. Resolutions between parties may include a number of possibilities, including dividing the costs in proportion to the parents’ respective incomes, abiding the event, etc. Settlement agreements also typically contain language requiring the child to apply for scholarships, grants, loans and other forms of financial aid to stem the blow. College funds or other types of savings accounts might have been established for the children that are to be applied before any additional financial obligation befalls on the parents. Each of these different mechanisms is designed to protect the children, ensure proper education, while also considering the parent’s financial circumstances as well, which are often altered following a divorce due to additional expenses, new families, legal fee debt and the like.
The next question, forming the basis of this blog post, is what obligation do parents have to contribute to graduate school? Does a parent have an obligation to pay for a child’s law school tuition? How about medical school? This infrequently addressed issue in the court system was recently taken on by the Appellate Division in Schambach v. Schambach, a very interesting decision containing an analysis in a concurrence/dissent that merits in-depth discussion.