New Jersey courts have typically viewed higher education as a necessity and required parents who divorce and are still financially able to contribute to the cost of a child’s college education.
There are a number of factors the court weighs in determining if parents should pay for a child’s college education, including:
- If the parents would have paid for college if they were still married;
- If the parents have instilled an expectation in the child that he or she should attend college;
- How much financial assistance the child needs to attend college;
- The ability of one or both parents to bear the cost of a college education for a child;
- If the amount being requested by the child is reasonable;
- If the parents can afford it;
- If the child is committed to and has the ability to obtain a college degree;
- If the child has his or her own financial resources;
- The ability of the child to earn income during the school year;
- The availability of financial aid;
- The state of the parent-child relationship; and
- The importance of a college degree to the child’s long-term goals.
Some parents mistakenly believe that when a child turns 18, that child is an adult and no longer qualifies for support. Under New Jersey law, support for a child does not end at age 18 unless a child support agreement specifies it. Even then, a court may decide that a parent is responsible for providing some support for higher education.
When negotiating your property settlement agreement, you should include a provision that outlines each parent’s responsibility for contributing to the cost of college. Many divorcing parents neglect to include this provision, which can necessitate a return to court to modify the final judgment. Even then, a court is likely to require some sort of contribution to your child’s higher education costs, depending on the factors outlined above.
When you are faced with an important life decision regarding a key family relationship, the advice and assistance of an experienced family law attorney often proves crucial to your understanding of the issues involved and your satisfaction with the ultimate outcome of your family law matter. Contact us today for your free consultation.