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FERPA and College Contribution
My son has refused to provide me with a copy of his grades/transcript from the Middlesex County College.
Do I still have to pay for child support and college contribution if my son refuses to give me a copy of his grades/college transcript?
New Jersey divorced parents who help pay for their child’s college education are now legally entitled to review their child’s grades/transcript. In the recent New Jersey case of Van Brunt v. Van Brunt, (Superior Court of New Jersey, Ocean County, Chancery Division, Family Part, Docket No. FM-15-091-08N, 2011), the court held that a child must now provide his/her transcript to the payor parent. The court held that this legal requirement does not violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act FERPA. As a result of this case, a child or a custodial parent can no longer hide behind any legal shield provided by FERPA. A child must now disclose his or her grades/transcript to any parent who is paying for college.
After a divorce, it is common knowledge that many ex-spouses remain at war with each other. Unfortunately, the kids get stuck in the middle. In many cases, the non-custodial parent is simply seen as a wallet, and he is not kept up to date on the child’s educational status. Many children and custodial parents have stubbornly refused to provide proof of the child’s academic status. They claim that this information is protected under the provisions FERPA. The non-custodial parent then remains in the dark, and he is forced to pay child support and college contribution for a child who may have dropped out of school.
In the Van Brunt case the Ocean County Superior Court held that a college student is legally required to provide proof of college attendance, course credits and grades as a condition of receiving ongoing child support and college contribution. The court further held that this legal obligation does not violate the student’s rights to privacy or the provisions of FERPA. The court also opined that the custodial parent has a responsibility and a legal obligation to make sure that the non-custodial parent is provided with ongoing proof of the student’s college enrollment, course credits and grades.
In summary, a college student has a legal right to privacy as it relates to his/her college records. There is federal law which provides that students over 18 are entitled to certain privacy rights. These privacy laws have not been overturned. It is important to emphasize that the provisions of FERPA have not been repealed or changed. It is black letter law that colleges can’t release student records to third persons without the student’s written authorization, or in certain other very limited circumstances. Nonetheless, a parent who is legally required to pay child support or for college, has a clear legal right to receive ongoing verification of proof of enrollment, and a copy of the child’s grades/transcript. The payor parent is legally entitled to receive this information so as to determine whether the child remains unemancipated.
New Jersey is an equitable distribution state, meaning that the division of property in a divorce is to be done fairly, not necessarily equally. The court can take into consideration any factor it deems relevant when dividing property, but it must consider certain factors, such as how long the couple was married and the age and health of both spouses, the income or property brought to the marriage by each spouse, the standard of living that was achieved during the marriage, and the extent to which one spouse may have deferred career goals, among others.
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