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College Contribution - Do I Have to Pay for College, Too!

Contribution by a parent for the post-high school educational expense is dependent upon the ability of the parents to contribute, the desire and ability of the child or children to succeed in their educational and vocational pursuits, and a number of other factors. Suffice it to say that if the parents have the income or credit and the child has the desire and ability, the Court will generally compel the parents to contribute, many times in proportion to the parents' income. It is obvious that the goal is to create the opportunity for children to become well-educated, advance their careers and vocations and become self-supporting. The obligation can continue throughout the outer bounds of the educational spectrum. For example, professional parents create an expectation that their children will become professionals and therefore, give rise to an obligation to pay for post-college degrees. Many Judges ask the question whether the parents would have contributed toward the advanced educational needs of children had the marriage remained intact.

There are exceptions to the general rule that parents contribute to a child's education. The New Jersey Supreme Court, in a case entitled Newburgh v. Arrigo, has set forth the following additional factors which may be considered:

  • Whether the parent still living with the child would have contributed to the cost of the requested higher education;
  • The effect of the background, values and goals of the parent and the reasonableness of the expectation of the child for higher education;
  • The amount of the contributions sought by the child for the cost of the higher education;
  • The ability of the parent to pay the cost;
  • The relationship of the requested contribution to the kind of school and course of study sought by the child;
  • The financial resources of both parties;
  • Commitment to and the aptitude of the child for the requested education;
  • The financial resources of the child, including assets owned individually or held in custodianship or trust;
  • The ability of the child to earn income during the school year or on vacation;
  • The availability of financial aid in the form of college grants and loans;
  • The child's relationship to the paying parent, including mutual affection and shared goals, as well as responsiveness to parental advice and guidance;
  • The relationship of the education requested to any prior training of the overall long-range goals of the child.

The Family Court routinely request the children to obtain all available student loans, grants, scholarships or aid as well as contributing to living expenses by part-time work, if available.

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