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Calculating College Contributions

New Jersey law is unique in presuming — and sometimes requiring — that parents will contribute to the cost of their children attending college. This expectation continues when parents divorce or separate, adding to the conflicts and financial pressures.

The Law Office of Rajeh A. Saadeh, L.L.C., can help you understand your legal obligations regarding college costs — whether and how much you and the other parent might have to pay. We can capably represent you in negotiating or litigating this hot-button issue in initial divorce or separation proceedings or in post-decree modifications.

There’s so much at stake

College costs can be exorbitant. Let’s get in front of this issue to avoid conflicts or surprises later. Contact our Bridgewater office to arrange a consultation.

Are Parents Obligated To Pay For College?

As a general rule of thumb, yes. In a landmark 1982 case, Newburgh vs. Arrigo, the New Jersey Supreme Court established that parents have an obligation to contribute to college expenses, as an extension of their duty to provide an education. The Newburgh case laid out 12 factors courts must consider when deciding (a) if a parent should be compelled to assist with higher education and (b) for what amount:

  • Whether higher education was a reasonable expectation in the family
  • Whether the parent would have contributed toward college if still married or not separated
  • The amount of assistance the child is seeking
  • The combined financial resources of both parents
  • The ability of the parent to pay college costs
  • The availability of financial aid (grants and loans)
  • The child’s resources, including personal savings or a college fund in his or her name
  • The ability of the child to earn income during the school year or on vacation
  • The child’s aptitude for and commitment to higher learning
  • The connection of the requested education to prior training and long-range goals
  • The connection of the expense to the type of school or course of study
  • And last but not least, the relationship of the child to the paying parent, such as mutual affection and whether the child is receptive to parental guidance

That’s a lot of variables. Is the kid “college material”? Is the choice of college justified? What will the son or daughter contribute? Is the child estranged from the parent, but expecting him or her to foot the bill? Our lawyer can anticipate which factors would be favorable and unfavorable in court or help you reach a practical middle ground.

Working Out The Details Of College Funding

Rajeh A. Saadeh practices in the family courts of New Jersey, including in Middlesex County, Somerset County, Hunterdon County, Morris County, Union County and Mercer County. He is well-versed in New Jersey divorce and related family law matters, including financial considerations such as child support, college contributions and alimony. He knows that college costs can be a sticking point for blue-collar families as well as high net worth families.

A more recent case, Avelino-Catabran vs. Catabran, may apply in disputes over paying for college. In a nutshell, the Appellate Division ruled that terms of a divorce settlement agreement supersede the Newburgh criteria. In a divorce decree, the parents in Catabran agreed to equally share any college costs not covered by financial aid. When the dad took out a PLUS loan on his daughter’s behalf, the court upheld the mom’s obligation to repay half the loan. This is a simplification of a complex case, but the upshot is that the fine print of your divorce matters — possibly to the tune of thousands of dollars.

We Can Advocate For You In All Forums

The Law Office of Rajeh A. Saadeh, L.L.C., can put college funding expectations in clear and unambiguous terms in your divorce settlement or litigate for or against college contributions in contested proceedings. We also represent clients in hearings to modify court-ordered financial support when there has been a significant change in circumstances after divorce.

To schedule a meeting with attorney Rajeh A. Saadeh, call 908-396-8330 or fill out our online form and we will reach out to you soon.