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
If parents can not decide how to share the costs of college, a hearing will be held at which time the parents will disclose their finances, and the judge will take the above factors into mind, along with the financial information to determine an equitable division of expenses.
Emancipation – Do I Have To Pay If My Child is Over 18?
Many parents falsely believe that their legal obligation to support their child automatically ends when that child reaches 18 years old. In fact, at age 18 a child is not automatically emancipated–the legal act that releases the child from parental control and financial support–because children over that age are often still dependent on their parents. The exception to this is if a divorcing couple decides during the process to end support at age 18.
Property Settlement Agreement and College Costs and Divorce in NJ
It is advisable to have college expenses provided for in the property settlement agreement. Since the trend in New Jersey is for a judge to require parental contribution towards college expenses where a parent is financially able to do so, it is often easier to come to the decision of how to share the expense rather than having to go back to court.
If you have questions about the payment of college costs and divorce in NJ, call Peter Van Aulen today for a free initial consultation.
Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529 (1982).