As previous posts on this blog have discussed, New Jersey has child support guidelines that are supposed to help courts come to an amount each parent should be responsible for in order to allow their children to maintain the same standard of living as they enjoyed prior to the divorce.
These guidelines do not account for every expense, however, and one big expense for which the guidelines do not account is college tuition and fees. Courts will generally handle college expenses separately and divide the responsibility for them between the parents, although the division is not always 50-50.
This is because under New Jersey law, since college expenses are not accounted for in the child support guidelines, New Jersey courts actually have considerable discretion to decide how they want to allocate who should pay what when it comes to college tuition and expenses.
When making its decision, the court will consider the child’s needs and also consider the financial status of each parent. However, the court also has leave to examine whether and to what extent the child has wealth or income with which the child can finance his or her own education. Moreover, the judge can ask whether the child truly has a demonstrated “need” to go to college, as parents can and should expect some return on their investment if they are going to finance an expensive post-secondary education.
Following a divorce or paternity case, parents will no doubt have to pay child support or be responsible for their child’s basic needs while they are still minors. However, whether a parent has to cover all or any part of a child’s college education really depends on the circumstances. It is not the right of a child, or the other parent, to automatically expect help for college.
A parent who has questions or concerns about paying for their child’s college education should consider speaking with an experienced New Jersey child support and family law attorney.