Child support in New Jersey is an obligation most understand will last until a minor reaches the age of majority. However, this state is one of just a few where child support payments may extend through college. Parents can be court-ordered to pay a child’s college tuition – even if the relationship is strained and the parent had no say in the child’s choice of school.
As our Somerset County child support attorneys can explain, New Jersey is one of the few states where child support can continue even once the child begins attending college. In fact, the New Jersey Supreme Court established 35 years ago in Newburgh v. Arrigo that a child’s right to support encompasses a “necessary education” post-high school. That can include either vocational school or college, though it is not without limitation. The state supreme court established 12 “Newburgh factors” to be considered when determining a parent’s obligation and contribution amount.
More Disputes as College Costs Rise
Given the sharp increase in college tuition (CollegeBoard reports tuition and fees are rising at a much faster clip than financial aid and family income), this aspect of child support is hotly contested in New Jersey family courts.
Just recently, the Superior Court of New Jersey’s Appellate Division issued a per curiam opinion affirming the grant of continued child support to two college-age children in T.C. v. N.M.
Father argued the trial court judge abused her discretion by requiring him to pay child support for his son and by requiring him to contribute to the college education of his daughter, which he alleged he cannot afford and should not have to pay considering he was excluded from her college selection.
The parents of the two children, who are twins born in 1996, were never married. After the children graduated high school, father moved for emancipation, which would have ended his obligation for child support. Mother cross-moved for contribution toward college expenses and a recalculation of child support. The pair were unsuccessful in mediation, so a hearing was held. At that time, children were college sophomores, with son attending a local community college and daughter an out-of-state university. The children’s relationship with father was strained.
The court considered father’s incomes, assets and debts – including the fact that he was raising four other children with his wife. Applying the 12 “Newburgh” factors, the judge concluded that while not all expenses would be covered by the parents, father should contribute $10,000 per year – capped at $25,000 total – for his daughter’s education. The Judge did not order payment of son’s tuition because son’s loans already covered those expenses, but because he was still living with his mother, ordered father to continue child support payments while son was enrolled in school.
Weighing Parent’s Ability to Pay Tuition Costs
Child support attorneys in Somerset know theNewburgh factors include things like:
- Financial resources of both parents;
- Amount of contribution sought for the child’s education;
- Each parent’s ability to pay those costs;
- Financial resources of the child;
- Child’s commitment and aptitude for that kind of school or course of study;
- Availability of financial aid;
- Child’s ability to earn income during school year or while on break.
Ultimately, courts want what’s best for the child, but there is some recognition for the child’s legal status as an adult and, of course, they don’t want parents to go bankrupt. A skilled family law attorney can present compelling evidence to help sway the court to our client’s position on the amount of college expense contribution.
Father in this case appealed.
Th Appellate justices reviewing a father’s appeal stated appreciation for the fact that education is expensive and requires significant sacrifice. Nonetheless, the grant of award was affirmed after finding the trial court’s reasoning sound and thoughtful.
Of course, all parents want their children to succeed in life, but parents must ensure their own financial interests are protected as well.
If you have questions about child support in New Jersey, contact our Somerset County child support attorneys at Rozin-Golinder Law LLC by calling (732) 810-0034.
Additional Resources: T.C. v. N.M., Sept. 12, 2017, Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division
More Blog Entries: A Roadmap to NJ Divorce Laws, July 17, 2017, Somerset County Divorce Attorney Blog
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