Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.

Articles Posted in College Expenses in Divorce

Here in New Jersey, divorced parents may be legally compelled to contribute towards their child’s college tuition and certain related expenses. However, the attorneys at our family law and divorce law firm embrace that the non-custodial parent has a right to receive documentation verifying that their child is in fact continuously enrolled in college on a full time basis as well as the grades and any other pertinent information. If the custodial parent (or child) refuses to disclose this information, our lawyers shall file a motion in the Superior Court of New Jersey to compel the production of any and all documents that would disclose these essential facts. Below we dissect a recent case from a New Jersey Family Court that verifies these rights. Following is a legal analysis of a recent case that was just handed down by a New Jersey Family Court regarding this red-hot issue.

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In Van Brunt v. Van Brunt, the Honorable Judge Jones of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Family Part of Ocean County was tasked with deciding whether a parent obligated to pay child support or contribute towards college costs, has a right to ongoing verification of the child’s collegiate status, and whether the responsibility to provide the non-custodial parent with ongoing proof of college attendance, credits, and grades lie s with the student, the custodial parent, or both. After a thoughtful deliberation, Judge Jones held that a court order that requires a college student to submit proof of attendance, credits, and grades as a requirement for ongoing child support and college expenses does not in fact violate the privacy rights of that student under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and both the student and the custodial parent have a duty to make sure that the supporting parent receives proof of the student’s college attendance, credits, and grades.

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As a divorce lawyer who owns a busy law firm, I am well aware that here in New Jersey a red hot topic has been the fact that divorced parents are obligated to contribute to their child’s college expenses, even though non-divorced parents do not share the same responsibility. Through of the course of over twenty years as a New Jersey divorce attorney, I have witnessed courts, time and time again, order divorced parents contribute to their child’s college attendance. Over the years New Jersey Family Part courts have begun favoring mediation and settlement agreements in divorce proceedings. While these agreements are not binding under contract law, the courts will honor them in the pursuit of equity, justice and the best interest of the child. The recent case of Moffitt v. Moffitt, shows that the Appellate Division will hold a parent responsible to agreement regarding college expense contributions that they had previously agreed to do by way of consent.

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In Moffitt, Guy Moffitt appealed an order that required him to pay for 81% of his daughter’s Stafford and Perkins college loans. Guy and Laura Moffitt divorced in May 2003. In the final judgment of divorce both parents agreed to divide the cost of college. Guy was to contribute 80%, and Laura was to contribute only 20%. According to the agreement the child also had an obligation to apply to all available grants, scholarships, and financial. The agreement further stipulated that the child could not be enrolled in any school without prior notice to the other parent, who would be required to exercise good faith and not unreasonably withhold consent. A basis for reasonably withholding consent could be the cost of the institution. Also the parties agreed to consider the child’s wishes in enrolling in the selected school.

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A huge controversy in divorce and family over the past hew years here in New Jersey has been the fact that divorced patents are legally obligated to pay for college expenses for their children yet married folks are not. In my opinion as a lawyer who has practiced divorce and child custody law here in New Jersey for the past few decades, I feel another difficult topic for both attorneys and parents alike is payment of a child private school expenses. When my associate attorneys and I are explaining the law to our divorce clients, is sounds something like this.

New Jersey divorce lawyer

New Jersey divorce lawyer

“Well, if you child has only attended private school for a few years at a young age, a Family Court judge will only order that the child remain in the private school unless the parents can no longer afford it. On the other hand, if your child has been in private school for most of their lives, then the court will most likely order that the child shall remain there until emancipation, again assuming the parties can still afford it.

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A hot topic in New Jersey divorce law over the past few years had involved payment of college tuition and related expenses by divorcing (or divorced) parents. As an attorney practicing here in New Jersey, it is my fervent opinion that most folks do not feel it is fair that divorced couples are “forced” to pay for their child’s college education yet married families have the “option” to do so. Moreover, many parents are compelled by Family Courts here in New Jersey to pay for college expenses even in situations in which the parent and child have been estranged from one another. Finally, there is the never-ending controversy of divorced parents keeping one another “in the loop” with respect to making decisions related to college expenses.

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