Articles Posted in Payment Of College Expenses

The growth of college expenses and tuition has far outpaced the growth of the average person’s wages. Student loan debt affects the majority of young college students today, and it is no surprise that parents want to help ease the burden for their children. When couples divorce, and college is contemplated for their kids, it can be an issue as to who should be responsible for the costs associated with a university education. In a recent unpublished case, D.M v K.M, the New Jersey courts grappled with college expenses in a NJ divorce.

The parties had been married for seventeen years when they decided to file for divorce in December 2010. They had two children – a daughter, born in 1992, and a son, born in 1996. During the proceedings, the parties signed a property settlement agreement (PSA), which was incorporated into the final order of divorce. The PSA held that the couple would address payment of college expenses at the time their children would be attending, as well as requiring Plaintiff (the husband) to pay $100/week in child support. Each party also agreed to claim a tax exemption for one child each.

The parties’ daughter entered college, and the defendant paid the first three semesters, after which she filed a motion with the court requesting contribution from the plaintiff, as well as payment from him for future expenses. She alleges that Plaintiff contributed money from the children’s payroll checks into a college fund for the children, but actually used the money for his own purposes.  He motion was dismissed, and she appealed. The appellate court held that the trial court improperly denied her motion based solely on the fact that defendant requested reimbursement after she paid expenses. The court remanded, and ordered the trial court to conduct a full Newburgh analysis. The Newburgh factors are used in family cases when analyzing college contribution claims, even though the case was actually a wrongful death action. The Newburgh case asserts that parents have the duty to provide a necessary education for children – even after they have reached the age of 18. Continue reading

College expenses cause financial difficulty for most families, but they can be especially burdensome for families with divorced parents, where the parent’s income supports two households. Even still, New Jersey Courts regularly require divorced or separated parents to contribute to the cost of a child’s college expenses.

The Newburgh Factors: Contribution to College Costs and Divorce in NJ

In determining whether and how much a parent must contribute to his or her child’s higher education, the court will look at a number of factors. A New Jersey Supreme Court decision, Newburgh v. Arrigo provides the framework for determining how much a parent must contribute. A judge will consider the so-called  “Newburgh Factors” listed below to determine the extent of a parent’s financial contribution to a child’s college education:

  • Whether a party, if not separated, would have given to the cost of the student’s requested higher education
  • The result of the values, goals, and background of the parent on the reasonableness of the expectation of the student receiving a higher education
  • The amount of the funding demanded of the parent by the student
  • The parent’s ability to pay the requested contribution
  • If the demanded contribution relates to the type of school or course of study desired by the student
  • The parties’ monetary means
  • The student’s commitment to and ability for the demanded higher education
  • The financial means of the student, including any assess being held in trust for his or her benefit
  • The student’s capability to make income during vacation breaks or the academic year
  • The student’s capability to obtain monetary aid in the form of loans or grants
  • The student’s connection to the parent being asked to contribute. This includes whether there is mutual fondness and shared goals between the student and the paying parent and if the student is responsive to the paying parent’s instruction and direction
  • The connection of the education demanded to any prior training and to the student’s long-term objectives

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Peter Van Aulen is certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court as a Matrimonial Attorney.

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