Father Contests College Tuition Obligations In Post-Judgment Divorce Filing
- November 5, 2014
- No comments
In the recent Appellate Division case, Gropper v. Gropper, the Defendant, Cy Gropper, appealed from two post-judgment Orders of the Morris County Family Court concerning his obligation to contribute to his son’s college expenses based upon his final divorce judgment. The Defendant appealed from two (2) Family Court Orders, one filed on March 20, 2013 that directed him to pay $50 a week directly to the parties’ son in child support and 58% of the child’s college costs and expenses. The second Order, which was filed on May 21, 2013, denied the Defendant’s Motion to reconsider the relief ordered in the previous Court Order. The Defendant claimed that his Motion for reconsideration was not properly considered by the court and that he should not have been ordered to pay his son’s private school tuition when “the same education can be obtained a reputable public [state sponsored] schools” for a much lower cost. The Appellate Court ordered a limited remand to review the Defendant’s Motion. The parties in this case were divorced in 1995. Their marriage yielded two children and pursuant to the property settlement agreement (PSA) which was incorporated into their final divorce judgment they were to share joint legal custody of their children and were to share their children’s college education costs 52% by the Defendant and 48% by the Plaintiff. After the divorce, the Defendant moved to North Carolina. The parties’ younger son applied and was accepted to attend an online private college, the University of Advancing Technology (UAT) as well as the University of North Carolina-Charlotte (UNC). Since he had to have spinal surgery, the child did not immediately attend college and subsequently moved to North Carolina. Based upon the child’s move and his representation to UNC that his primary residence was the Defendant’s address, the Defendant filed a Motion to modify his child support obligation asserting that any child support should be paid directly to the child and that the parties agreed that the child would attend UNC. The Plaintiff filed a Cross-Motion arguing that she agreed that the child support could be sent by Probation directly to the child, but disagreed that an amount adjustment was warranted. Further, she sought a review of each party’s college expense contribution amount because the Defendant’s income had increased from the time of the divorce. The Plaintiff also asserted that the parties’ son had reluctantly agreed to attend UNC and planned on finishing his coursework at UAT because that school offered a major not found at UNC. In a 2013 Court Order, the judge modified the parties’ child support obligations. In addition, with regard to the college expenses, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(a), the judge ordered that the UAT tuition “after all loans, grants, and scholarships have been obtained” shall be paid 58% by the Defendant and 42% by the Plaintiff. The Defendant appealed. The Appellate Division found that the Family Court judge’s statement of reasons supporting the Order at issue regarding the parties’ respective college tuition obligations was premised on analysis of the child support statute, but did not mention any consideration of the factors outlined in Newburg v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529 (1982). Further, the Defendant, in his papers, also accurately indentified the need to consider whether the child is enrolled on a full-time basis. Khalaf v. Khalaf, 58 N.J. 63, 71-72 (1971). Therefore, the Appellate Division remanded the case back to the Family Court for an re-evaluation consistent with its opinion. If you anticipate that you may want to petition the court for a post-judgment modification of your divorce judgment regarding issues such as your obligation to pay your child’s college expenses it is critical that you seek out the advice of an experienced attorney before moving forward. For more information about post-judgment modification, child support, parenting time, divorce, or other family law matters in New Jersey visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes and in no way is intended to replace the advice of an attorney.