College Expenses And The Court: What Do You Need To Know?

The NJ Divorce Solutions College Contribution Series – Part 3 of 3

Unfortunately not every college contribution case will settle. Once you realize that your attempts to settle are failing, the next step is to file a motion with the court. Motion papers are available at your county courthouse and online. You may wish to speak with an attorney regarding the facts of your case as the laws for this topic are complicated and require a careful analysis of your particular set of facts and circumstances. However, here are the basics of what you need to prove in order to be successful in your request for college contribution costs.

In your motion, you want to be sure to fully tell your story. Take time to fully think about all the facts that pertain to your case and only include facts that are relevant to the relief you are seeking from the court.

When evaluating a motion for college contributions, the court should consider the following factors pursuant to the case Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529 (1982):

  1. Whether the parent would have contributed toward the costs of the requested higher education if they still lived together
  2. The educational values and goals of the parents and the reasonableness of the expectation that the child attain higher education
  3. The amount sought by the child for the cost of higher education
  4. The ability of the parent to pay the cost
  5. The relationship of the requested contribution to the kind of school or course of study sought by the child
  6. The financial resources of the both parents
  7. The commitment to and educational aptitude of the child for the requested education
  8. The financial resources of the child, including assets owned individually or held in custodianship or trust
  9. The ability of the child to earn income during the school year or on vacation to reduce his/her costs
  10. The availability of financial aid in the form of college grants and loans
  11. The child’s relationship to the paying parent, including mutual affection and shared goals as well as responsiveness to parental advice and guidance
  12. The relationship of the education requested to any prior training and to the overall long-range goals of the child

The court will also take into consideration the child’s options in deciding which college to attend. If there is an option between a private school and a state school, the court will often consider this as a relevant factor when deciding how much each parent is obligated to contribute. Additionally, if there is a damaged relationship between the paying parent and the child, the court will consider whether the parent was permitted any involvement in the application process. However, a parent’s voluntary refusal to be involved will not count against you. Another factor which the courts often consider outside of the Newburgh factors is whether other children born from the relationship or other children of the paying parent are in college or will be attending college close proximity to the child in question. This factor is relevant to the paying parent’s financial resources and how much he or she will have to contribute to one or more children in the same period of time.

Remember, in your motion you want to ensure that you explain how each of these factors pertain to your case. The court should be able to understand all the facts of your case simply from reading your motion papers. Included with your factual statement you should also provide the court with evidence supporting your statements.

Evidence can include, but is not limited to

  • (1) Financial statements from the college showing tuition costs
  • (2) Proof of any conversations that there has been an expectation that the child attend college
  • (3) Proof of any prior proceedings where college costs were discussed or ordered
  • (4) Proof of your financial information showing your ability or lack of ability to contribute to the costs
  • (5) Proof of your child’s financial information showing his or her ability or lack of ability to contribute to the costs
  • (6) Proof of any financial aid or scholarship award granted to the child
  • (7) Proof of the paying parent’s involvement in the college selection process and his or her relationship with the child

Once you file your motion, the other party will have an opportunity to respond with their version of the facts and why they do not want to or cannot contribute to the college costs of the child. The court will schedule both parties to come to court to discuss the issues and, if the court deems it necessary, it may schedule a plenary hearing, which is essentially a trial. At the plenary hearing, both parties will have an opportunity to produce evidence and witnesses regarding the factors listed above. The Judge will ultimately allocate an amount it deems fair and equitable for each parent to contribute toward the child’s college expenses.


The NJ Family Law Attorneys at NJ Divorce Solutions can help you through the process. Contact us if you have any questions.


This blog was written by our associate Marissa Hirsch, Esq.

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