Post-Judgment Motion For College Tuition Is Denied
- February 20, 2015
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White v. White, is a 2015 post-judgment modification involving a Plaintiff who petitioned the court to compel her ex-husband, the Defendant, to reimburse her and their son for loans that the Plaintiff and the child used to pay for his college education. The Plaintiff appealed the decision of the Family Court which denied her initial Motion, filed in 2012, to compel the Defendant to reimburse her and her son for the aforementioned loans. After being married for six (6) years and having two (2) sons the parties agreed to divorce. The divorce was granted pursuant to a judgment of divorce that granted custody of the children to the Plaintiff, set forth the Defendant’s child support obligation, and incorporated the parties’ agreement concerning the equitable distribution of their property. The record reflected that the Defendant did not have contact with either of his children from 1998 through the time the initial Motion was filed in 2012. In 2008, the parties’ youngest son entered college and graduated in 2011. In 2012, nine (9) months after the parties’ child graduated college the Plaintiff filed a Motion seeking retroactive child support effective May 2009 through December 2011 and an Order directing the Defendant to pay for the non-emancipated child’s college education as well as a loan that the Plaintiff has used for that purpose. The court denied the relief requested. The Appellate Court found that it was required by Gac v. Gac, 186 N.J. 535, 546 (2006) to consider whether the Defendant had been involved in the college selection process at all. Further, the court noted that the Defendant was disabled and wondered whether or not it was fair to retroactively place the burden on him to inquire as to whether or not his children were entitled to any veteran benefits – as he was a veteran – to assist in the payment of college expenses. Relying on Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529, 535 (1982), Gac v. Gac, N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(a) the Appellate Division ruled that waiting until the child graduated from college was fatal to the Plaintiff’s application for retroactive contributions to the loan that she took out. Courts “should balance the statutory criteria of N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(a) and the Newburgh factors, as well as any other relevant circumstances, to reach a fair and just decision whether, and if so, in what amount, a parent or parents must contribute to a child’s educational expenses.” Gac v. Gac, surpa, 186 N.J. at 543. Being that it could not be determined exactly when the Defendant first learned that his son was attending college and why the Defendant was estranged from his son (and therefore not involved in the college selection process) the court was not willing to reverse the decision of the lower court. The issue was whether a non-custodial parent can be held liable to a child for the amount of educational benefits that would have been available from a non-parental source had the parent timely notified the child or child’s custodial parent. The Plaintiff cited to no authority to support the imposition of such liability and therefore the court was not prepared to impose such. If you anticipate that you may want to petition the court for a post-judgment modification of your divorce judgment it is imperative that you seek out the advice of an experienced attorney before moving forward. For more information about post-judgment modification , equitable distribution, divorce, alimony, 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.