Court Compels Father To Pay College Tuition
- June 3, 2014
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In a recent post-judgment matrimonial case, Martin v. Martin, the NJ Appellate Court reversed a Family Court order denying the Defendant’s Motion for college tuition contributions for her daughter because the Family Court judge did not conduct the proper analysis. The parties in this case were married in 1993 and subsequently divorced in 2010. The marriage yielded two children – a son and a daughter. The parties incorporated a property settlement agreement (PSA) with their final divorce judgment that specified that it was anticipated that the parties’ daughter would matriculate to college in 2011 and that the son would eventually attend college. The agreement stated that any parental contribution toward the children’s college expenses would be governed by the factors set forth in Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529 (1982) and that the Defendant possessed the children’s savings bonds for the benefit of the children and these bonds were not to be used toward the children’s college expenses. The Defendant did not file a Motion for college contribution until the end of 2012, which was well into the daughter’s third college semester. According to the Defendant, the delay was the result of not being able to incur any additional attorney fees and because she was hospitalized for five days during that time. The Family Court denied her Motion for contribution, in part, because of the delay. In the Defendant’s appeal, she argued that the Family Court judge erred in not requiring the Plaintiff to contribute to their daughter’s college expenses by improperly evaluating the factors set forth by Newburgh. According to the Appellate Division, the Family Court had “substantial discretion” in deciding the issue of contribution to the daughter’s college expenses. Jacoby v. Jacoby, 427 N.J. Super 109, 116 (2012). According to this decision: “If consistent with the law, [the] award will not be disturbed unless it is manifestly unreasonable, arbitrary, or clearly contrary to reason or to other evidence, or the result of whim or caprice.” In Newburgh, the New Jersey Supreme Court established a framework for evaluating parental contribution toward a child’s college expenses and instructed courts to consider the following factors: • Whether the parent, if will living with the child, would have contributed toward the costs of the higher education; • The effect of the background, values and goals of the parent on the reasonableness of the expectation of the child for higher education; • The amount of the contribution sought by the child for the cost of higher education; • The ability of the parent to pay that cost; • The relationship of the requested contribution to the kind of school or course of study sought by the child; • The financial resources of both parents; • The commitment to an aptitude of the child for the requested education; • The financial resources of the child, including assets owned individually or held in custodianship or trust; • The ability of the child to earn income during the school year or vacation; • The availability of financial aid in the form of college grants and loans; • The child’s relationship to the paying parent; and • the relationship of the education requested to any prior training and the overall long-range goals of the child. According to the Appellate Court, the trial judge had an obligation under Newburgh and N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(a), to consider all of these factors and in this case the judge did not meet this obligation because he did not consider all of the factors. Therefore, the case was reversed and remanded for a proper evaluation. If you anticipate that you may want to petition the court for a post-judgment modification of a lower court’s order or decision with regard to the other party’s college expense contribution or any other aspect of your divorce including alimony, child support or custody it is imperative that you seek out the advice of an experienced attorney before moving forward. For more information about post-judgment modifications, divorce, alimony, child support, custody and visitation, or other family law matters in New Jersey visit DarlingFirm.com. This blog is for informational purposes and in no way is intended to replace the advice of an attorney.