Post-judgment motions are common in family law, especially when it comes to paying for college tuition for the children of the divorced parties. Often times, older Property Settlement Agreements (“PSA”) are ambiguous when it comes to which parent will pay a child’s college tuition. As was the situation in the recent unpublished decision in Orero v. Orero, App. Div., docket no. A-2230-08T3, decided on February 19, 2010.

The Orero’s were married in 1987 and divorced in 1996. In 1996, the parties entered into a PSA where they agreed that if the children were to attend college each party shall contribute “to the best of their ability.” Well fast forward 13 years and their oldest daughter is about to begin college in Colorado. Now, Mrs. Orero seeks Mr. Orero to contribute half of the daughter’s college expenses. Mr. Orero alleges that he was (1) not consulted regarding the daughter’s choice of schools, (2) doesn’t have the ability to pay because he has children from another marriage, and (3) if he must pay, than he is entitled to a plenary hearing (similar to a trial) to determine the relevant facts. As a result, Mrs. Orero files a motion with the court seeking to enforce the PSA. Notwithstanding Mr. Orero’s arguments, the trial judge ordered Mr. Orero to pay half the college expenses. Mr. Orero filed a motion for reconsideration, which is denied. So Mr. Orero appeals.


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What payment obligation, if any, do divorced parents have towards their child’s post-high school education?  The New Jersey Supreme Court concluded more than 25 years ago that a child’s right to support includes a "necessary education" after high school, whether it be a vocational school or college.  However, a parent’s obligation to pay for such schooling depends generally on the expectations and abilities of the parties involved to pay, as set forth in 12 different factors including:

1.  whether the parent, if still living with the child, would have contributed toward the costs of the requested higher education;

2.  the effect of the background, values and goals of the parent on the reasonableness of the expectation of the child for higher education;

3.  the amount of the contribution sought by the child for the cost of higher education;

4.  the ability of the parent to pay that cost;

5.  the relationship of the requested contribution to the kind of school or course of study sought by the child;

6.  the financial resources of both parents;

7.  the commitment to and aptitude of the child for the requested education;

8.  the financial resources of the child, including assets owned individually or held in custodianship or trust;

9.  the ability of the child to earn income during the school year or on vacation;

10.  the availability of financial aid in the form of college grants and loans;

11.  the child’s relationship to the paying parent, including mutual affection and shared goals as well as responsiveness to parental advice and guidance; and

12.  the relationship of the education requested to any prior training and to the overall long-range goals of the child.


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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.


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Previously I have blogged on both the issue of sanctions assessed by a court against one party in a divorce or post divorce matter and also the obligation to contribute to the costs of a college education for a child and to what extent.

These issues are often addressed to the Appellate Court of New Jersey as in many family law matters they are topics hot for debate.  Most recently, the Appellate Division in the unpublished decision of Hikes v. Hikes, Decided August 13, 2009, Docket No. A-6642-06T2 addressed both the issue of sanctions and the payment of college for a child.

Sanctions may be requested by a party or  granted by a court on its own in a situation where one party acts in extreme bad faith or is non-compliant.  Sanctions can be viewed as a sort of punishment for that extreme bad faith or non-compliance.  This is especially so when the other party acts in good faith and is complaint.


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Despite what people often think are iron-clad agreements, foolproof from any misinterpretation, despite best efforts, that may not always be the case.  One area that has been given significant recognition for interpretation by our courts is the area of what constitutes emancipation of a child.

This issue was recently addressed in the unpublished Appellate Court

Recently, I addressed the question as to when a child is emancipated under the eyes of New Jersey law.  As I indicated there, the New Jersey Supreme Court defines emancipation as "the act by which a parent relinquishes the right to custody and is relieved of the duty to support a child."  Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529 (1982). A related question also addressed by the Court in Newburgh is a parent’s obligation to contribute towards a child’s postgraduate education expenses.

The Supreme Court in Newburgh set forth a non-exhaustive list of factors for a court to consider in determining a parent’s obligation to contribute to such educational expenses.  These factors were subsequently codified by statute at N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(a) as follows:

1. Whether the parent, if still living with the child, would have contributed toward the costs of the requested higher education.

2. The effect of the background, values, and goals of the parent on the reasonableness of the expectation of the child for higher education.

3. The amount of the contribution sought by the child for the cost of higher education.

4. The ability of the parent to pay that cost.

5. The relationship of the requested contribution to the kind of school or course of study sought by the child.

6. The financial resources of both parties.

7. The commitment to and aptitude of the child for the requested education.

8. The financial resources of the child, including assets owned individually or held in custodianship or trust.

9. The ability of the child to earn income during the school year or vacation.

10. The availability of financial aid in the form of college grants and loans.

11. The child’s relationship to the paying parent, including mutual affection and shared goals as well as responsiveness to parental advice and guidance.

12. The relationship of the education requested to any prior training and to the overall long-range goals of the child.


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The issue of relationships between parents and children when determining allocation of college expenses is often a complicated one. I have had many post divorce clients, usually non-custodial clients, discuss their frustration with the lack of involvement that they have had in the selection of college for their sons or daughters but are expected to pay a significant portion thereof. They feel as if the are simply “a wallet.” The recent unreported Appellate Division decision of Miller v. Tafaro brought this to mind.

In Miller, the father had been estranged from his children for many years following the parties’ divorce. When the mother asked the court to enforce the Property Settlement Agreement as to the payment of college expenses, the father said that he should not have an obligation to pay as he did not have a relationship with the children. The Court noted that as this was but one factor for consideration by the court, and, given that the lack of relationship over the years with the children was a result of the father’s actions, the trial court’s decision that the father was obligated to pay a portion of college expenses was affirmed.


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In many divorce matters, attorneys, clients and judges alike must determine how to deal with the issue of support for children, oftentimes which includes the divvying up responsibility for payment of college expenses.

There is a large body of case law in New Jersey that deals with this very issue and provides guidance as to

It’s that time of year. High School seniors all over the country are making that agonizing decision, “Which college should I go to?”  While the kids are choosing schools, parents are thinking, “how will I pay for it?” Financing college is a challenge in the best of circumstances, but for families in which parents are divorced