College & Education Obligations for Divorced Parents

In New Jersey, divorced parents can be financially responsible for the cost of their children's college education. Over 30 years ago, the New Jersey Supreme Court set forth the factors to be considered by Judges in order to determine the extent of the divorced parties’ contributions.

They are:

(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.

Under the best circumstances, parents are able to discuss the cost of college education with their children whereby all parties involved are able to come to a satisfactory resolution. However, in many instances, divorced parents cannot agree on the selection or the cost of a college education. When facing this scenario the advice and assistance of an attorney familiar with New Jersey divorce law is of great assistance.

Currently society views obtaining a college degree as having a major influence on a person’s future income earning potential. However, the ever escalating cost of a college education, coupled with the failure of personal income to keep pace with rising expenses and the lack of financial planning for such a large expense, are just a few of the factors which make it difficult for parents to agree on their contribution toward this expense.

Recently, New Jersey courts have added additional fact-sensitive criteria to be examined when addressing the issue of college contributions by divorced parents. Courts are permitted to consider if there is a damaged relationship between a college-age student and a parent and, if so, the court may order the student to attend joint counseling with the parent as a condition of the student receiving ongoing financial assistance from that parent for college tuition (so long as there is no compelling reason to keep the parent and student physically apart). Also of relevance and to be considered is the option of attending college at a state college or a private college, at substantially less cost than the student's school of first preference. Lastly, while the factors listed above are to be considered on the issue of college contribution, certain cases may present additional equitable factors also deserving consideration. An attorney can help to identify and present to the Court these additional considerations.

The issue of contribution for the child’s college education and how it is to be apportioned is extremely fact-sensitive. The attorneys in the Family Law Group at Lindabury are well-versed in this area and stay current on this constantly changing issue.

Please contact us here if you have questions about New Jersey divorce or contribution requirements of divorced parents for their children’s college education.