In New Jersey, graduating from high school and attending college is a change in circumstance that warrants a modification of child support. Under New Jersey case law, many divorced parents are found to have some obligation to contribute to their child’s college education. If you’re already divorced, the first place you should look for guidance on this issue is your settlement agreement. However, if there are gaps or the settlement agreement is silent, New Jersey law applies.
When a child is attending kindergarten (or even before that) through 12th grade, the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines are used to determine the child support amount. Logically speaking, if a parent is contributing to college expenses there is less money available to pay child support. On the other hand, while the child is away at school, many of the same expenses still remain such as buying clothes, maintaining a home and providing school supplies. If your child is living on campus, you’re already contributing to their living expenses.
For the above reasons, once a child begins attending college and lives away from home, the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines are no longer applicable and the factors in the child support statute are considered. Specifically, the court considers:
Needs of the child.
Standard of living and economic circumstances of each parent.
All sources of income and assets of each parent.
Earning ability of each parent, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, custodial responsibility for children including the cost of providing child care and the length of time and cost of each parent to obtain training or experience for appropriate employment.
Need and capacity of the child for education, including higher education.
Age and health of the child and each parent.
Income, assets and earning ability of the child.
Responsibility of the parents for the court-ordered support of others.
Reasonable debts and liabilities of each child and parent.
Any other factors the court may deem relevant.
According to the factors above, a judge is obligated to take into account the amount of money each parent is contributing to the child’s college expenses. Based on this factor alone, it is easy to see why the situation no longer fits into the child support guidelines. College expenses vary according to the school the child attends and the needs of the child. This is when the mediators at NJ Divorce Solutions can be helpful. At NJ Divorce Solutions, it is possible to come to a resolution regarding child support and college expenses. Our mediators can assist you with an agreement that fit the specific needs of your family.