Divorce: Do Parents have the Responsibility to Pay for Their Child’s College Expenses
It is the policy of the State of New Jersey that parents have the duty and responsibility to contribute and provide for the support of their children. However, some parents may disagree as to when this support should end. College expenses become an issue when parties are in dispute within their Divorce proceedings. So what duties does a parent have in contributing towards their child’s college education? What is taken into consideration when deciding if a parent should be responsible for the payment of their child’s educational expenses? Do parental contributions extend post-college education?
Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 NJ 529 (1982) is a seminal case that sets forth factors in which a Court will review and consider in its determination of whether or not the parent will hold the responsibility of contributing to his or her child’s college costs. The following are factors that the court will take into consideration: (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. Although these factors can seem specific this list is non-exclusive and each case depends on the facts and circumstances that are before the Court.
And for parents who believe that they don’t have a responsibility to contribute toward their child’s graduates may want to think again. A parent may or may not be obligated or ordered for lack of a better word to contribute towards their child’s graduate expenses depending on the facts and circumstances before the Court. Take the case of Ross v. Ross, 167 NJ Super 441 (Ch. Div. 1979), a parent was directed by the Court to continue support payments for the child until completion of law school. There are different variables in play with this situation such as continuation of child support as opposed to being ordered to contribute directly towards graduate expenses. A discussion on child support extending past the age of emancipation for the benefit of a child’s college and graduate education will be reviewed in another post.
It is crucial that parents and children be properly informed of their rights and duties under the laws of New Jersey. There are facts and circumstances in which a parent may or may not have the duty and responsibility to pay for college expenses and post-college expenses. To be better informed, it is essential that you discuss your matter confidently and confidentially with a New Jersey Divorce Attorney so that you and your child are provided with much needed information and assistance to help you through this matter.