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Settlement Agreements on the Issue of College Contribution
Can the parties agree by way of settlement for the payment of college?
The parties can always agree by way of a settlement agreement or via a consent order to fix the payment arrangement for college expenses. In the world of family court the constant mantra is to settle your dispute with your ex spouse. A settlement agreement is almost always enforceable it if voluntary, fair and equitable. Schlemm v. Schlemm, 311 N.J. 557 (1960).
Thus, if the parties' agreement spells out with detail the terms of parental contribution, then in the majority of the cases the court will enforce it. If the parties agree to equally share for the cost of college for the child, then the court almost always will enforce this agreement. If the parties Property Settlement Agreement has no agreement as to college contribution, then the court must conduct an independent review of the Newburgh factors.
In summary, the parties can waste all of their money fighting over who is paying for college. I don't agree with all of the complexity of New Jersey law on the issue college contribution. However, "it is what it is." In my travels, I have seen many warring ex spouses spend more on litigating college contribution issues than they did in their divorce case. If possible you should try to spell out the terms of college contribution in your Property Settlement Agreement, or your should try to resolve your case via a consent order.
In New Jersey, a separation agreement is any legal document signed by both spouses outlining the terms of the separation. Subjects resolved in a separation agreement can include child support, child custody, debt allocation and asset distribution. Notarizing the document ensures its validity, since there is no such case-type in New Jersey that provides for a "legal separation." Spouses wanting child support during the separation period, however, must file a claim with the New Jersey probation department.
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"A Plain English Guide to Protecting Your Children"
Author: Mary L. Boland, Attorney at Law
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