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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.
If the divorce is being filed under one of the seven fault grounds (including extreme cruelty, adultery, abandonment, substance or alcohol addiction, institutionalization, deviant sexual conduct and incarceration), the 18 month separation period, required for a no-fault divorce, is waived. However, each ground for divorce has its own stipulations.
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