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New Jersey Child Support: Court-Ordered College Tuition

In Flynn v. Flynn the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey recently look at the issue of court-ordered college tuition.

In that case, Mr. Flynn appealed a family court order requiring him to pay child support and college expenses for his son. His argument claimed Pennsylvania law should apply, which would not have required him to pay child support because the child was over the age of 18.

The couple had divorced in Pennsylvania but both ended up living in New Jersey and the divorce decree stated that New Jersey courts would have future jurisdiction over the case.

Among the primary responsibilities of your divorce lawyer in Monmouth County is to make sure you negotiate a comprehensive divorce agreement, which can prevent such unwelcomed financial surprises. As this case illustrates, this couples’ agreement to litigate future disagreements in New Jersey, which was no-doubt done for convenience, could yet cost this father the price of a college education.

Divorce, College Tuition, and NJ Law

Pennsylvania law presumes termination of child support once a child graduates high school or reaches the age of 18. No such automatic termination exists in New Jersey. As our Monmouth County child support attorneys have written about before, New Jersey is one of the few states that consider a minor to be legally un-emancipated (not yet an adult) while attending college. 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.

In Flynn v. Flynn the court overturned a trial judge’s decision that the father must pay the cost of his son’s college in accordance with New Jersey law. The appeal court essentially ruled Pennsylvania law should apply because the issue involved modification of child-support, which had been determined at the time of divorce in Pennsylvania.

The case was analyzed by National Law Review and this month’s New Jersey Family Law Journal because of the important implications involving application of laws among parties that have litigated their cases in multiple states. This is quite common in New Jersey because of our close proximity to Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, Maryland and Connecticut.

Our Monmouth County divorce attorneys know it’s these types of additional child-rearing expenses – college tuition, summer camp, sports participation, orthodontics and medical expenses -- that must be planned for as part of a comprehensive divorce and child custody agreement. Failure to tackle these issues can lead couples back to court for a costly and time-consuming legal battle.

These types of ancillary expenses must be taken into account before the full extent of your child-support obligations (or benefits) is known. The average cost of college tuition in 2018 was nearly $35,000 for private schools and $10,000 for annual tuition at public universities.

How does your child support agreement look once those costs are added? As this case illustrates, the fact such expenses are not mentioned in your agreement doesn’t let you off the hook. In fact, it might mean you are agreeing to pay the bill.

Call Rozin|Golinder Law, LLC today for a free and confidential consultation.

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