Divorce's Impact On Your Obligation to Pay College Tuition

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Are Your Children Owed College Tuition?

It’s an important note, worthy of attention. The proverbial silver spoon is not the deciding factor in whether parents will afford their children a college education. Although a degree of familial wealth is certainly a consideration, there are additional concerns. Are your children owed college tuition?

Intact Families

Almost every generation has something to say about the differences in the one that follows them. Many think that today’s young people have a sense of entitlement. Notwithstanding, few dispute that education is a means to establishing career options and self-reliance. Others argue that there are significant programs allowing offspring to find funds for their own college adventures.

New Jersey has no concrete laws regarding parental obligations to provide post-secondary education. It appears that the legislature and judiciary are silent concerning intact families. Unless the court is asked to intervene, parents that stay together are on their own to make decisions. It is up to them to determine whether or not to help their children with college educations.

The concept has been challenged. Just last year, a then Morris County teenager attempted to compel her parents to pay child support and for her next year’s college tuition. The young woman was estranged from her family at the time she filed the complaint. She subsequently dropped the lawsuit and reconciled with her parents. The court had already ruled against the teen’s application for child support.

College Funding in Divorce Matters

Once issues of child custody and support are presented to the court, the matter becomes the subject of judicial approval. This is not to say that parents cannot come to some kind of agreement concerning the payment of college tuition. It merely means that the judge ensures that the decisions are within the law.

There are a number of New Jersey cases regarding parental obligations and post-secondary education, starting with Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529 (1982). In short, the law looks at individual case scenarios to determine if parents have some responsibility to pay for college tuition. Put succinctly, “in appropriate circumstances, the privilege of parenthood carries with it the duty to assure a necessary education for children.”

The Newburg case lists the following as important considerations in determining parental obligations:

  • If the family was intact, would the parents have contributed towards tuition?
  • Are the parents educated? Was there an expectation that the child would go to college?
  • How much money is in question? Is it feasible?
  • Is the child able to contribute to his/her own education?
  • Is their money in trust that could be used to the child’s education?
  • Are scholarships or financial aid available?
  • Nature of child’s relationship with parents
  • Relevance of education to overall goals

Contact Us

Other cases have come out since Newburg that are integral to decisions regarding parental obligations and college tuition. Sam Stoia has extensive experience in negotiating these types of cases. There is no cost to meet with Sam to discuss your situation. Contact him to schedule an appointment.