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  That is what happened in the unreported (non-precedential) case of Fletcher v. Euston decided on June 11, 2013.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

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.


Continue Reading A Parent’s Obligation To Pay for Post-High School Education

Many couples in the midst of a divorce have very young children. As a result, the issue of funding their children’s college education is typically reserved until the child is of college age. Parties typically agree to include language in their Property Settlement Agreement wherein they will exchange income information and begin discussions regarding the

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.


Continue Reading From Emancipation To College Expenses – What Is A Parent’s Financial Obligation?

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.


Continue Reading Poor Relationship with Parent not enough to Deny College obligation