Whether your child will attend public, private, or community college, tuition for higher education is expensive. All parents must face the daunting question, “How am I going to pay for my child’s college?” However, the question of who will pay for college is an additional concern for parents who are divorced or are in the process of divorcing. The following article provides an introduction of what to expect when determining who will pay for your child’s college tuition.
In the State of New Jersey, college tuition is not included as part of child support obligations. It is important to be aware that in the State of New Jersey family court judges have the discretion to require divorced parents to pay for their children’s college education in an effort to protect the child’s best interests.
At the time of the parents’ divorce, marital settlement agreements often include language addressing each party’s obligation to contribute towards college. Typically, this negotiated agreement may specify what percentage of college expenses each parent is responsible for, what expenses are covered, the type of institution the child may attend and the parents’ ability to pay. If the parents cannot agree on a specific percentage, which is common, then the agreement will state that they shall pay in accordance with their available income and assets at that time in the future when college is near.
Before running to Court to file an application regarding the apportionment of payment of college tuition and expenses, parents are encouraged to try to work it out between them and their attorneys and should consider attending mediation to work out the details. If parents cannot agree on how to share the college expenses between them when the time is appropriate to address the issue, then the court will make the decision at trial. Likewise, if college costs were never addressed in the parties’ final judgment of divorce, a court will make the determination in the event the parents cannot reach an agreement.
Furthermore, once it is confirmed that a child has the ability and intention to attend college, courts will determine the amount each parent is responsible for based on the case law of Newburgh v. Arrigo.
Although there is no set formula for calculating both parents’ contribution, the Newburgh v. Arrigo case sets forth twelve (12) factors the court will consider:
- Whether the parent, if still living with the child, would have contributed toward the costs of the requested higher education;
- The effect of the background, values, and goals of the parent on the reasonableness of the expectation of the child for higher education;
- The amount of the contribution sought by the child for the cost of higher education;
- The ability of the parent to pay that cost;
- The relationship of the requested contribution to the kind of school or course of study sought by the child;
- The financial resources of both parents;
- The commitment to and aptitude of the child for the requested education;
- The financial resources of the child, including assets owned individually or held in custodianship or trust;
- The ability of the child to earn income during the school year or on vacation;
- The availability of financial aid in the form of college grants and loans;
- The child’s relationship to the paying parent, including mutual affection and shared goals as well as responsiveness to parental advice and guidance; and
- The relationship of the education requested to any prior training and to the overall long-range goals of the child.
The above factors will guide a judge’s determination of whether or not a parent is responsible for contributing to college expenses and if so, at what percentage. In the end, it is wise to address the issue of college support in the original marital settlement agreement. It can take months to negotiate an agreement; therefore, postponing this issue until your child is ready to start college seldom works out well.
The first place to start is retaining a divorce lawyer who can advocate for you and your children’s best interests. Whether you are seeking financial support for your children’s college expenses or responding to such a request, an experienced attorney can guide you through the process of paying for college when you’re divorced.
For more information regarding payment for college tuition before, during, and after your divorce contact the Law Office of Lyons & Associates. At the law office of Lyons & Associates, we represent men and women throughout New Jersey who have unresolved family law matters. We place a premium on personalized service and attention. For a private consultation, contact us by e-mail, view our website at www.lyonspc.com, or call our office at 908-575-9777.
This post was sponsored by Lyons & Associates.