More and more, when discussing the payment of college education expenses with clients for their children, I am being asked, “What about graduate school?”  The guiding principal behind that question, I suppose, is that, in New Jersey, it is well-settled that absent extenuating circumstances, both parties to a divorce have an obligation to financially provide

With summer just beginning, many people have visions of swimming pools, beaches and family vacations. Others in New Jersey have visions of Sallie Mae, tuition bills and book fees.

After four years of what has become obligatory college contribution pursuant to the mandates of Newburgh v. Arrigo, many parents in the state are then

In the return of our New Jersey Family Law Podcast Series, we are proud to present our fifth installment discussing child support and emancipation.  This has been a hot topic in recent months, especially following the Rachel Canning lawsuit from earlier this year.  Enjoy!

Listen to the Podcast and download the transcript here.

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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.


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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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