WHO PAYS THE KIDS’ COLLEGE EXPENSES AFTER DIVORCE?

In New Jersey, there may be an obligation imposed on divorced parents to pay for a child’s college education. Generally, the court will look to a variety of factors. In our experience, the major factors under consideration are where the child is going to school and the total cost, the income and financial circumstances of the parents, and what resources (including financial aid) are available to help fund the child’s college expenses.

You should know that these factors come from the case Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529 (1982). These are often referred to by attorneys as the “Newburgh factors.”

The Court is required by Newburgh to consider the following factors when trying to determine if either or both parents should be contributing to college expenses.

(1) whether the parent, if still living with the child, would have contributed toward the costs of the requested higher education;

(2) the effect of the background, values and goals of the parent on the reasonableness of the expectation of the child for higher education;

(3) the amount of the contribution sought by the child for the cost of higher education;

(4) the ability of the parent to pay that 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 both parents;

(7) the commitment to and 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;

(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; and

(12) the relationship of the education requested to any prior training and to the overall long-range goals of the child

It’s important that these are just factors for the court to consider. One factor isn’t necessarily more important than another and there is no magical formula used to calculate what each party should pay. However, as a practical matter, as mentioned above, attorneys usually start out with this:

(1) How much is it going to cost the child to go to school?

(2) What is the child eligible for in financial aid?

(3) How much can each party afford to pay?

Common sense dictates that the conversation start there. However, there could be other factors at play for you. For instance, do you have a relationship with your child? If not, why not? Is it because you abandoned the family or is it due to parental alienation? Or somewhere in between? Is there a wealthy Grandma that is going to pay for school and, therefore, you never saved? Is the child going to an expensive out-of-state school when he or she could stay in-state? These are all questions that could have a bearing on the outcome. And they should be part of the discussion.

If it is determined that both parents are responsible for paying the child’s college expenses, the question remains, who will pay what? At the end of the day, you want your child to be cared for, but you also want each party to pay his or her fair share. We get it. That’s when mediation is helpful. Let us help you with the discussion. This isn’t something that can just be resolved using a formula. It requires careful consideration of the needs and intentions of the parties when they were an intact family, the needs and intentions of the parties now, and of course, the needs of the child. Don’t let a judge decide that for you. Decide it for yourselves. We can help you.

The mediators at New Jersey Divorce Solutions can help you determine a college plan that will work for both you and your children. To schedule a client vision meeting, contact us at NJ Divorce Solutions. Or you can schedule one here.

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