If co-parents never discussed who was to pay for their children’s college during their divorce, can one force the other to pay for some or all of the costs when the children are ready to go to college?
Heidi Ann Lepp’s Answer:
In the State of New Jersey, married parents are not required to contribute to the costs of their children’s education; however, divorced or unmarried parents are required to do so. In fact, the child can actually bring an application against his/her divorced/unmarried parents to compel them to contribute to college expenses. Unless this issue is addressed and agreed upon by the parents in advance, applications of this type to the Court are extremely expensive and time consuming, generally resulting in a plenary hearing (trial). Pursuing this type of application can, oftentimes, cost the parents more money than they would have paid for their children’s education.
In making this application, the parent seeking payment must supply a current Case Information Statement (financial document) with pay stubs and tax returns. He/she must also supply the financial information about the child’s schooling such as tuition, financial aid and another other costs. The Court will consider a number of factors in its decision including, but not limited to, whether the parent, if still living with the child, would have contributed toward the costs of the requested higher education; the amount of the contribution sought by the child; the ability of the parent to pay that cost; the financial resources of the child; and the availability of financial aid in the form of college grants and loans. The issue of whether there is a continuing relationship between the parents and the children will also be considered well as whether there should be a modification of the ongoing child support payment as a parent will not be treated as simply a wallet for a child.