Spotlighting a child’s college costs in the wake of a New Jersey divorce

| Mar 12, 2021 | Divorce |

Most divorcing New Jersey spouses have varied concerns as they engage the divorce process and negotiate their way toward an ultimate dissolution settlement.

Child-centric matters like custody, parenting time and support are notably core concerns for impending exes with young children. Alimony (spousal maintenance) might be a focus in a given divorce. And for most splitting parties, an equitable property settlement is a central consideration. That entails both a fair division of marital assets and legal determinations surrounding any post-divorce obligations.

Many divorcing couples spend little – if any – time contemplating financial duties they might continue to have concerning a son or daughter who is 18 or older at the time of divorce. And that is often especially the case when such a child is alienated from the family to a degree or otherwise independent and seemingly in no need of ongoing support. It is a common assumption that so-called “emancipation” automatically occurs at 18.

That view is underscored by one New Jersey legal source addressing the impact that college costs can have in a divorce. That topical overview states that, “Many people believe that their financial obligations to their children end when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school.”

That is an accurate assessment in many cases.

But not for all families.

What is New Jersey’s official take on parent-assumed college costs?

Many social commentators understandably applaud New Jersey’s law that generally regards college education as a necessity. The broad availability of ongoing learning obviously links to collectively heightened knowledge and an empowered workforce across the state.

That upside comes with this question, though: Who pays for the opportunity?

One comprehensive article on college costs dealt with in the wake of a New Jersey divorce cites the recent trend in the state “to require parents to pay the college costs for their children.”

Divorcing New Jersey parents reading this post and unaware of the state’s stance might obviously want to familiarize themselves with the details.

Importantly, too, they might reasonably seek to consult with an established family law attorney well versed in the subject matter and with a strong record of client advocacy negotiating and executing divorce agreements.

A judicial assessment concerning a divorced parent’s duty to pay for a child’s college expenses in a given case will understandably be fact-specific. The outcome will include scrutiny of factors like these:

  • Whether parental outlays would have occurred had the marriage endured
  • Projected likelihood that a child will attend college
  • Ability to pay, and amount of assumed obligation
  • Financial aid availability
  • Financial resources of the child
  • Relationship status between parent and child

The bottom line is that a New Jersey parent’s child support obligations do not automatically cease when a son or daughter turns 18.

An experienced divorce attorney can address questions or concerns regarding this important legal topic and help ensure that understanding and expectations surrounding it are well reflected in a well-drafted property settlement agreement.