General Duty to Provide for a Child's Education
In general, parents in Ocean County, New Jersey have a duty to financially provide for their children's college education. That proposition was put forward in the seminal 1982 New Jersey Supreme Court case of Newburgh v. Arrigo. However, there tends to be recognized exceptions to this general rule. For example, in the recently decided case of Marinaro v. Marinaro, the Appellate Division found that the defendant-father did not have to contribute to his daughter's college education. The court found that the trial judge did not err in finding that the defendant-father did not have the financial resources available to contribute to the daughter's college education.
The court noted that the trial judge, in reaching this conclusion, properly worked through each of the Newburgh factors. The factors enumerated in the Newburgh case are a number of considerations a court should look to when deciding a parent's responsibility to provide for a child's college education in a New Jersey family law case. The Appellate Division also noted that there was sufficient evidence in the trial record supporting the trial judge's finding with respect to the financial resources of the defendant-father.
Exception for Estranged Parents
Another exception to the general rule that a divorcing parent has a obligation to contribute towards a child's college education costs can be found in the case of Gac v. Gac. In the Gac case, the Supreme Court of New Jersey held that a father of a child was not responsible to contribute towards the cost of his estranged daughter's college. The reasons utilized by the Supreme Court included the fact that the father had no opportunity to participate in the choice of college and that he was estranged from the child. Gac stands for the proposition that as soon as reasonably possible, the other parent and/or child should communicate with the other party regarding the selection of a educational institution.
Contact a Lawyer to Get Your Ex to Contribute
If you are divorced and you are having difficulty in getting your ex-spouse to contribute towards your child's college costs, you will likely need to file a post-judgment motion with the courts to compel your ex-spouse to contribute towards the college costs. What this entails is retaining an attorney to prepare paperwork wherein all the issues in dispute are provided to the Court.
Your ex-spouse will then have the opportunity to file an opposition to your motion papers and you will then be afforded the opportunity to file a reply certification to the court, wherein you will respond to the opposition that has been filed by your ex-spouse. After all the motion papers are filed, the judge will then set your matter for a hearing. Typically, at the motion hearing the judge is faced with dueling certifications wherein the parties are advising the court of different facts and different interpretations of those facts.
More often than not, as the judge is faced with vastly diverse certifications, he or she has no choice but to set the matter down for a plenary hearing to determine what, if any, level of contribution to college costs is required on behalf of the other spouse. A plenary hearing is, in essence, a trial limited to the issues before the court.
Consider Mediation to Handle Child Education Cost Issues
Unfortunately, the cost for such a hearing could be quite exorbitant. You may need to subpoena witnesses or have the child testify. If at all possible, it would be in everyone's best interests to save the fees associated with a plenary hearing and agree on an acceptable contribution towards the college costs. The judges throughout New Jersey are more than ever recognizing the benefits of mediation. Judges in Monmouth County and Ocean County, when faced with such applications, are typically referring the litigants to a post-judgment mediation to resolve such issues prior to the scheduling of a plenary hearing. A good mediator at the initial mediation session will make the parties aware of costs to continue to litigate the college contribution issue. A lot of times these types of cases are settled at post-judgment economic mediation.
Additionally, in order to avoid these types of disputes, you may wish to set forth with specificity the language in your divorce settlement agreement as it pertains to college costs and the manner in which the college costs are going to be funded. You may have a number of options available to you, such as setting aside money from the marital estate at the time of the divorce to fund college, or setting forth the percentage of each parties' respective percentage to contribute to college costs in the future.
Ocean & Monmouth County Family Law Attorneys
If you are seeking a divorce, a post-judgment application to the court to compel your ex-spouse to contribute towards your child's college costs, modification to child support, or modification to alimony, contact experienced Ocean County family law attorney, Vincent C. DeLuca Esq. of Villani & DeLuca. Call (732) 709-7757 today to have your free, no obligation consultation. Mr. DeLuca is certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court as a Matrimonial Attorney and he is also a divorce mediator.