College Contribution and Divorce by Alicia Hutchinson, Esq. (Marlton, NJ Office)
When should you address the issue of college contribution? Before you child picks a college? Before the bill for his or her first term is due? Before you get divorced?
The answer is: all of the above, and absolutely sooner than you think you need to.
Ideally, college contribution for children born or adopted into the relationship should be a topic of conversation during divorce or separation proceedings. All too often, parties fail to discuss the topic, which seems too far in the future to be worth worrying about. This can be a mistake. College contribution should absolutely be something you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse address at the time of divorce or separation. If nothing else, it will provide the Court with a starting point later on when they assess college contribution and each parents (and the child’s!) respective obligations.
Beyond the period of the initial divorce or separation, you should be addressing the issue of college contribution with your co-parent BEFORE your child has made his or her final determination of where to attend. New Jersey case law is evolving on this specific issue. As set forth in cases including the landmark case of Newburgh v. Arrigo 88 N.J. 529 (1982) and the recently published decision in Black v. Black, 2013 N.J. Super. LEXIS 207 (Ch. Div. June 26, 2014, failing to at least attempt to include a non-custodial parent in college selection may result in that parent not having to contribute anything. Obviously, if your co-parent is dedicated to the success of your child, you and your co-parent may be able to work out a plan to deal with college expenses without further legal proceedings.
When should you go see a lawyer if you want to make sure college contribution is addressed in a timely manner? Obviously, if you are in the process of getting a divorce or separating and you have children with your soon-to-be ex-partner, you should already have retained an attorney. We encourage you to schedule a consult with one of our three offices if you are in the process of getting divorced and have not yet at least spoken with a lawyer. But what if you were divorced ten years ago and your mail box is now crammed with recruitment catalogs from fancy colleges in exotic locales that cost more per year than a luxury sedan?
It is in your best interest to consult with an attorney as soon as you know or suspect that college contribution is going to be an issue you cannot amicably resolve. That way, you can proceed with information that is tailored to your specific situation and timeline, and you don’t risk later learning you’ve waited seeking legal advice and judicial intervention for so long that you have to carry the entire fall semester costs by yourself, or worse, that you risk your child not being able to start on time.
We at the Law Offices of Lynda Hinkle are experienced with helping parents navigate the labyrinthine procedures and case law which govern college contribution in the State of New Jersey. Call us at 856-227-7888 or e-mail [email protected] to schedule a free consultation.
The above is not specific legal advice nor does it create a lawyer-client relationship. Do not rely upon it without consulting an attorney to see how the information presented fits your unique circumstances.