What do College Costs Entail?
Like child support, the allocation of a child’s college costs is an issue that must be decided on during the divorce process or during post divorce proceedings. While the importance placed on this issue varies depending on the state, New Jersey courts tend to view college education as a necessity that divorced parents should be required to pay for. These college expenses usually include:
- Room and board, including dorm and food plan costs
- Transportation and travel expenses
- Any associated mandatory fees
Any expenses regarding getting into college such as SAT exam fees, preparatory courses, and application fees are generally not included and must be added to the agreement separately if desired. The divorce agreement should explicitly state which expenses are included and not included so there is no confusion later. An experienced family law attorney can ensure that the agreement includes all necessary provisions.
How Much Does A Parent Have to Pay?
There is not an exact guideline to determine how much a parent will have to pay. When deciding how much a parent must contribute to a child’s college costs, the New Jersey court looks at an extensive set of factors including:
- What the circumstances would have been if the parents stayed together, including the child’s standard of living and who would have paid for college.
- Each parent’s financial resources including income and savings, and their ability to pay for college expenses.
- The child’s commitment to and likelihood of achieving college education, including their academic performance and career goals.
- The financial aid options, if any, the child has available to them. A parent can submit a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) online to determine what financial options the child has.
- What happens when there is a damaged relationship between a college aged student and the parent? Should that parent still be obligated to provide ongoing financial assistance?
- Should a parent be obligated to pay the cost of an expensive private college over a more modestly priced state school?
- Should the court consider a student’s younger siblings of relatively close age who are likely to attend college in the near future as part of the college contribution analysis?
Isn’t A Child Emancipated Once They Reach Age Eighteen?
No, in New Jersey emancipation (the process of releasing a child from their parents’ control and support) does not automatically occur once the child turns eighteen. Since college education is considered a necessity and part of child support, the child turning eighteen will not release a parent from having to pay college costs. A parent’s obligation to pay college costs ends once the child is legally emancipated or their college education ends, for example obtaining a degree.
Contact Himelman and Himelman today to discuss post divorce proceedings regarding college costs.