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Do New Jersey Judges Have Power to Order Divorced Couples to Pay for College?

A group of multietnic students celebrating their graduation by throwing caps in the air closeup. Education, qualification and gown concept.

The financial implications of a divorce can be far-reaching and complex, particularly when it comes to the education of the children involved. In New Jersey, one specific area of concern often raised is whether judges have the authority to order divorced couples to pay for their children’s college education. Read on for a discussion of this topic; the answer may surprise you. If you are dealing with divorce or child support issues in Union, Middlesex, or Essex County and need legal advice and assistance from an experienced New Jersey family law attorney, contact the Law Offices of John B. D’Alessandro in Union for help.

New Jersey’s Approach to Child Support and Education

Unlike some states, New Jersey considers the cost of higher education as a form of child support. This perspective stems from the view that education is a necessity, not a privilege. New Jersey law recognizes that both parents have the responsibility to support their children’s education, including college. This obligation can extend to the age of 23 so long as the child is enrolled in school during that time. Since covering the costs of college is a parental obligation in New Jersey, courts have the authority to order one parent to pay those costs as part of the overall child support granted in a divorce.

The Key Legal Precedent

The pivotal case in New Jersey regarding this issue is Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529 (1982). The ruling in this case established that, in certain circumstances, courts have the power to compel divorced or separated parents to contribute to their children’s college education expenses. The Supreme Court of New Jersey in that case set forward a list of factors for courts to consider in evaluating whether to order child support that includes college expenses. Some of the chief criteria established by the court include:

  1. Financial Capability of Parents: An assessment of both parents’ financial resources, their ability to pay, and the financial needs of the child.

  2. The Cost of Education: How much money is the child seeking? Is the child eligible for financial aid, scholarships or student loans?

  3. Child’s Commitment to Education: The court will also consider the child’s goals, academic performance, and commitment to pursuing higher education.

  4. Parental Expectations and Standard of Living: This includes an evaluation of the family’s standard of living and parental expectations as they existed before the divorce or separation.

Mediation or Agreement Out of Court

Sometimes, the issue of college expenses is resolved through mediation or a mutual agreement between the parents. These agreements might include provisions for sharing college costs and can be included in the final divorce decree. Courts will generally uphold agreements made by the parents so long as the judge is convinced the decision is in the child’s best interests. Solutions arrived at through negotiations or mediation often work out better for all parties involved, and we encourage such approaches over litigation in appropriate situations.

Get Legal Help With Your New Jersey Child Support Matter

In New Jersey, judges do possess the authority to order divorced couples to contribute to their children’s college expenses. This decision is not made lightly, and the court takes into consideration various factors that reflect the unique circumstances of the family. As a party to these discussions, you’ll want to ensure that your voice is heard and your needs are met along with those of your kids, and an experienced family law attorney can be instrumental in helping you achieve your goals.

If you are facing a divorce in Union, Middlesex, or Essex County and have concerns about your responsibilities regarding your children’s education, the Law Offices of John B. D’Alessandro is here for you. With extensive knowledge of New Jersey family law, we can guide you through these complex issues and help you achieve an outcome that serves your child’s best interests.

Please do not hesitate to contact us at the Law Offices of John B. D’Alessandro in Union, New Jersey, for a consultation and personalized guidance on this or any other family law matter.

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