If you are/were married, both parents are responsible for financially supporting their children following divorce, which may include paying for college. In the 1982 case of Newburgh V. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that parents’ duty to provide children an education includes college. What this basically means is that if you have a college-bound child, you and the other parent are technically obligated to contribute some percentage, depending, towards the pay tuition and other college expenses of your children.
In some cases, divorcing couples include provisions in their marital settlement agreements about how college expenses will be handled, serving to reduce confusion and conflicts when the time comes. But, if the divorce agreement is silent on this issue and the parties cannot agree, the family court will decide who pays for what based on all the circumstances involved. The court will consider a variety of factors in making this decision.
Factors Courts Consider in Paying for College
- The financial situations of both parents
- Children’s relationships to both parents
- Possible financial assets of the child
- Whether the child is working and how much they earn
- Opportunities for grants, loans and scholarships
- Whether a non-custodial parent would have helped with college costs if they were still living with the child
- How much college will cost, overall
- Whether parents have other children who may also go to college.
The previous bullet points show some of the things the courts will consider. New Jersey judges will also look at anything else they believe is important in making the decision.
Reach Out for Skilled Legal Advice If You Are Being Asked to Pay for College
If you’re in a dispute with your former spouse over paying for higher education, reach out to Men’s & Fathers’ Rights Divorce Lawyers by Schultz & Associates, LLC today at (201) 880-9770. We have decades of experience protecting the financial interests of clients in family legal disputes. Once we learn about your unique situation, we will advise you about how we can help, including how your child’s going to college will affect child support payments.
Does Child Support Continue Through College?
Parents May Still Have to Pay Child Support and College Tuition.
You may be asking yourself: Do parents have to pay child support if my child is a college student? The answer to this question depends on the definition of emancipation of a child. In New Jersey, for example, emancipation of child only occurs if the child does not attend college or a trade school full time after high school, works full time, gets married, or joins the armed forces. However, if the child takes a short hiatus from high school on a temporary basis or works part time either during school or on school breaks, that would not be deemed an emancipation event. Some children (and parents) think they can work the system to continue to receive ongoing child support and will make sure their child has an extended long stay in college. New Jersey law ends child support at age 23 no matter the circumstances to prevent a manipulation of the system.
The issue of obligation for child support, in conjunction with college contribution is complicated. It is unlikely that a parent would have to pay the full amount of both. How much of each category the parents must contribute towards this support are very fact specific to the particular situation. For instance, it matters where the child is living during his/her college matriculation. It matters if the child is taking a full 12 credit case load. It matters what loans, grants, scholarships, or 529 plans the child receives (or anticipated to receive). It matters whether the child can qualify for work study. It matters the current financial circumstances of the parents. It matters about whether both parents were involved in the decision making of the selection and cost of the college the child is/wants to attend. It matters the parent’s current relationship with the college age child.
So, you can see, that this issue is not straightforward and there are often more questions that need to be answered before an assessment can be made about how much each parent should contribute towards college contribution and whether child support would also still be appropriate to be paid—and if so, in what allocated amounts?
If a child remains living at home, the New Jersey child support guidelines will typically be used to determine child support amounts, but adjusted by some percentage to consider the parents college contribution to that child to avoid a double dip of certain expenses. When children go away to college, determining the amount of child support involves the other factors unique to the situation outlined above.
It can get very complicated and contentious when it comes to decisions involving child support and college expenses. While most parents want what is best for their children when it comes to education and giving them an advantageous start to their futures, the cost of college can be sky high. It’s critical that the decisions made about paying these costs are fair to both parents, including non-custodial parents who may not have had a say as to which pricey college their child will attend. It is always best to have these discussions very early, and if possible, as part of your divorce negotiations even if the idea of college is far into the future. You certainly do not want to wait until a few months before your child has to make a decision for college as it is a stressful time without the added pressure of whether your parents are going to pay for it and if so, how much each.
Speak with An Attorney If You Are Facing Paying Child Support and College Expenses
If you are facing the possibility of having to pay both child support and expensive college tuition, it is smart to speak with a New Jersey family lawyer who will work to ensure that your rights are considered, as well as taking into consideration the needs of your child. In addition to tuition, college expenses you may be expected to contribute to can include housing, meals, books, transportation, and other items.
Contact Our Hackensack Family Lawyers about Your Concerns Related to Child Support and College Expenses
If your child is nearing college age and intends to go to college, it’s time to speak with a family law attorney now. It may be possible for you and the child’s other parent to work out an agreement about college costs without getting a judge involved, whether you are the custodial or non-custodial parent.
If negotiating or mediating an agreement about how and in what proportion college will be paid between you and the other parent isn’t a possibility, we can represent you to file an application to compel the other parent’s contribution, or, defend against the other parent who may be attempting to force you to pay.
Both parents should contribute fairly to college expenses based on the circumstances involved. We know how expensive college can be. If you are paying child support on top of it, the financial burden may be unreasonable. Our family lawyers don’t believe that you should have to pay more than is fair for your situation, and we will stand up for you to help ensure that you don’t, also recognizing that both parents likely want their child to have a good education and college experience.
Contact our experienced law firm for a case evaluation with a child support lawyer that represents fathers in New Jersey. Men’s & Fathers’ Rights Divorce Lawyers by Schultz & Associates, LLC can be reached at (201) 880-9770. Call us today for help.