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Which Parent Pays for Your Child’s College After a Divorce?
Let’s take a deeper look at the laws, restrictions, and obligations surrounding paying for your child’s college after a divorce.
Everyone knows college is expensive. While intact families can decide that they aren’t financially willing or able to put their children through college, parents at the head of non-intact families aren’t allowed that luxury and can be compelled to contribute to the cost of their child’s college education, even over their own objection.
While there are restrictions on the obligation, which are extremely fact-specific, the general rule is that a judge can order these non-intact families to contribute to their children’s college education. Additionally, it’s very common for these agreements to be codified in settlement agreements executed during the course of a divorce.
If you’re a divorced couple, it can be difficult to pick apart who exactly pays for what. Let’s take a deeper look at the laws, restrictions, and obligations surrounding paying for your child’s college after a divorce.
The 12 Main Factors New Jersey Courts Consider
New Jersey courts take education seriously and when discussing whether both parents or only one should pay for college, typically look at the following 12 considerations:
- If the parent, still living with the child, would have aided the cost of the child’s higher education.
- What the parent’s values, wishes, and background are, and how that impacts the reasonableness of the expectation for the child to pursue college.
- The amount of contribution the child is seeking for their higher education fees.
- How able the parent is to pay such costs.
- What financial resources both parents are in possession of.
- How committed and apt the child is toward their requested education.
- How requested funds relate to the type of schooling or course of study a child wishes to pursue.
- What sorts of financial resources the child has access to.
- If the child can earn income throughout the school year or while on a vacation.
- If financial aid is available in the form of loans and college grants.
- How the child relates to a potentially paying parent, including whether there’s a mutual affection between the two and if there are shared goals and responsiveness relating to parental guidance.
- How the education requested by the child relates to their goals and prior educational experiences.
Is the chance of a parent being granted an emancipation motion likely?
Across the United States, it has been ruled by courts that education is a necessity. Thereby, the chances of receiving approval not to pay your child’s schooling expenses is slim. However, the courts may find, based on the 12 factors, you’re eligible to pay some or all the fees. At the end of the day, the key determiner in most cases is money.
What happens if there was no mention of college payments in the divorce hearing?
If there was never any mention of a child’s college and corresponding payments in the divorce documents, then most cases will require both parents to pay for the child’s college fees. Consequently, it’s imperative to have a provision with mentions of college inside. Property settlements should additionally mention college.
Does graduate or professional school still need to be paid for?
If it’s ruled that a parent is required to pay for their child’s college, graduate school and professional school count as part of those expenses, as ruled by the N.J. Ross v. Ross case.
What if I don’t have the money to pay for my child’s college?
After a divorce, you may choose to remarry. However, this now means that you’re providing for two families instead of just one. Such a situation can be costly, and you may struggle to find the money to fund your child’s college expenses.
If you’re worried about being able to pay college fees, you can apply for a New Jersey Newburgh/Arrigo hearing. The court will require both parties to bring a variety of forms, including pay stubs, W-2s, and tax returns. Additionally, you’ll be expected to prepare a Case Information Statement, or CIS, along with the other party.
The courts will review both parent’s testimonies along with the evidence. Then, the court will make attempts to fairly distribute the costs of college between the two parties.
What if my child refuses all contact?
In some cases, a child is alienated from one parent and refuses any sort of contact. With no awareness of what college they’re choosing—much less who their child even is as an individual—is that parent still expected to pay for their child’s education?
If you’re faced with a similar situation, it’s important to note that you aren’t always required to pay such expenses. The answer to this question is determined on a case-by-case basis, and it’ll be up to the courts to determine whether the relationship with the parent is mutually affectionate enough to constitute a parent paying for college.
Am I expected to pay for both child support and college?
This question is yet another one that’s settled on a case-by-case basis. It can be settled with a Newburgh/Arrigo plenary hearing. In most cases, if a parent is making what the courts determine to be a substantial amount of money, the parent is still required to pay for both child support and college expenses.
Determining Who Pays for College Is Unique to Your Case
Often, parents attempt to reach an agreement with respect to college contributions during divorce proceedings. Depending upon the children’s ages, this may not always be feasible—and an agreement reached in the past might not reflect a family’s current reality. The needs of children also change, so financial obligations might need to change along with those needs.
Our family law attorneys at Smedley Law Group can help. We’re skilled mediators who can step in and help both parents see the bigger picture. We often help when:
- An existing college contribution agreement needs to be modified.
- Enforcing an existing agreement when one parent isn’t contributing as agreed.
- Parents disagree over the extent to which the child’s education should be covered.
- The parents disagree over how the college costs should be paid.
If you’re worried about how to fund your child’s costs, don’t wait to address this important issue. Even if your child hasn’t entered college yet, our attorneys can help you and your co-parent learn more about your obligations. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with an experienced mediator and family law attorney who can help.
Contact the Knowledgeable Family Law Attorneys at Smedley Law Group in Woodbury, NJ Today
If you’re thinking about filing for divorce, you’ll also most likely be dealing with another matter like child custody, child support, or college contribution matters, so you’ll need to speak with a qualified attorney. The New Jersey family law attorneys at Smedley Law Group represent clients throughout the state, including West Deptford, Woodbury Heights, Runnemede, and Westville. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we will fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at (856) 251-0800 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 750 Cooper Street, Woodbury, NJ 08096.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.