Parents Obligations to Contribute Towards College Tuition in New Jersey

Parents Rights and Obligations Regarding College Tuition in NJ

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Parental Rights and Obligations NJ Laws

As a general rule, a parent is under no duty to contribute to the support of his or her child after the child has become emancipated. Emancipation usually occurs by age or marriage, Moreover, in 2017, our State Legislatures passed a new law stating that child support shall terminate when the child turns 19 years old, gets married, or enters the military.  However, the parents can reach an agreement or the court can order that emancipation occur at a later date.  The new statute further provides that support shall not last beyond the age of 23.

The 12 Factors Under Newburgh v. Arrigo – NJ Supreme Court

Nevertheless, there has been a growing trend in our State and other states around the country obligating parents to contribute financially to the college education of a child even though the child has reached the age of majority.  In the seminal case of Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529 (1982), our Supreme Court set forth a non-exhaustic list of twelve factors the family court should consider when evaluating a claim for college contributions.

(1) whether the parent, if still living with the child, would have contributed toward the costs of the requested higher education;
(2) the effect of the background, values and goals of the parent on the reasonableness of the expectation of the child for higher education;
(3) the amount of the contribution sought by the child for the cost of higher education;
(4) the ability of the parent to pay that cost;
(5) the relationship of the requested contribution to the kind of school or course of study sought by the child;
(6) the financial resources of both parents;
(7) the commitment to and aptitude of the child for the requested education;
(8) the financial resources of the child, including assets owned individually or held in custodianship or trust;
(9) the ability of the child to earn income during the school year or on vacation; (10) the availability of financial aid in the form of college grants and loans;
(11) the child’s relationship to the paying parent, including mutual affection and shared goals as well as responsiveness to parental advice and guidance; and
(12) the relationship of the education requested to any prior training and to the overall long-range goals of the child.
In sum, the Newburg Court was expressing that if the parents planned on financing their child’s education and they had the ability to pay for the costs, then college contributions should be awarded. On top of the Newburg factors, our Supreme Court added another important factor to the analysis in the Gac v. Gac, 186 N.J. 535 (2006) case.  In Gac, the Court emphasized the importance of making a timely request for college contributions so a parent can participate in the decision and plan his or her expenses accordingly.  The Court stated that as soon as practical, the parent or child should communicate with the other parent concerning the many issues inherent in selecting a college.   At a minimum, a parent or child seeking contribution should initiate the application to the court before the expenses are incurred. The failure to do so will weigh heavily against the grant of a future application.
Another important case concerning college costs is Nebel v. Nebel, 103 N.J. Super. 216 (App. Div. 1968), which established the “Rutgers Rule.”  In Nebel, the defendant-father argued, in part, that he should not have to pay for a private college like Lafayette when his son could receive an equal education at a state school like Rutgers.  The Court held that the defendant’s position was reasonable. The Nebel Court ruled that the father’s income and assets, though adequate, are modest by today’s standards. The Court further ruled there is nothing in the record to indicate that the child could not gain admission into Rutgers or the courses  there are not adequate for the child’s needs. Consequently, it is quite fair, under the circumstances, to limit defendant’s college expense obligation to the approximate cost of an education at Rutgers.

Help with Parental Rights NJ Laws – Contact the Tormey Law Firm Today

Accordingly, if you or a loved one need assistance with a family matter, please contact our office now for immediate assistance at (908)-356-6900. The initial consultation is always provided free of charge.

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