Child support is a difficult enough topic for divorcing New Jersey couples. It becomes even more difficult when the children are headed off to college. So, the question that begs to be answered is: who pays for college costs in a New Jersey divorce? Experienced New Jersey family lawyers help their clients understand and negotiate this obligation so you don’t have to spend sleepless nights figuring out who will be responsible for college tuition.
Does Child Support Expire in New Jersey?
Yes, child support technically expires at the age of 19 under New Jersey law. However, support can be extended through the age of 23 while the child is in school, which is part of specific criteria that must be met in order to obtain an extension.
How Do New Jersey Courts Determine Parental College Tuition Responsibilities?
New Jersey courts use a specific set of criteria to determine who will pay college tuition based on a previous court ruling: Newburgh v Arrigo. The factors a court must review to determine if child support should be granted for a child attending college include the following:
- If the parent had still been living with the child, would they have contributed to the child’s education?
- The amount of money sought by the child for college.
- The financial resources of each parent.
- The effect of the values, background, and goals of the parent on the child to obtain a college education.
- The commitment of the child to a college education.
- The child’s ability to earn income while in school or on vacation.
- The relationship of the college education to previous training and the goals of the child.
- The ability of the child to obtain financial aid from grants, scholarships, and loans.
- The relationship of the child with the parent who is paying for college, including shared goals, mutual affection, and how the child responds to advice given by that parent.
How to Split College Costs In A New Jersey Divorce
You can avoid the court making this decision by coming to an agreement with your spouse when going through the divorce about how college tuition will be split. For example, maybe you agree to pay for your child’s room and board, books and food money all four years, while your former spouse pays tuition and fees. Or, the two of you might agree to split the entire cost right down the middle for all four years. Either way, splitting college costs in a New Jersey divorce can be fairly negotiated if you and your former spouse can agree that you prioritize paying for your children’s college education.
What if I Have Been Alienated From My Child?
There are instances where a child has alienated themselves from one of their parents, despite the efforts of the parent to maintain contact with the child. Despite the alienation, the child may still request or expect the parent to pay for their college education. Is there anything that explains how this type of situation is handled? For the most part, this type of situation would be handled by the New Jersey courts on a case-by-case basis using the criteria set forth by Newburgh v Arrigo as much as possible.
Determining the Parents’ Ability to Pay for College Tuition
The New Jersey courts must also determine whether or not the parents have the financial ability to pay college costs for their child even after a divorce. All assets of both parents should be evaluated, including the following:
- Equity in a home
- Bank accounts
- Brokerage accounts
- Savings bonds
- Retirement funds
- Business interests
- Life insurance cash value
It is important to note that if one of the parents has been spending money on expensive items like boats, luxury cars, multiple vacations, a new home or expensive art and that parent claims they do not have enough money to pay for college, the court should be made aware of this as it will play a major role in the decision as to who will pay for college tuition.
Call a New Jersey Family Law Attorney Today
Do you have questions about who pays for college costs while going through divorce in New Jersey? Rest assured, you are not the first parent to worry about who is responsible for their child’s college tuition in the middle of a divorce. Call the office of Stolfe Zeigler New Jersey Family Law Group at 732-240-9555, or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation with a member of our team today.
We serve the entire state with office locations across New Jersey.