As experienced New Jersey custody and support attorneys, we frequently have clients come to our firm on the difficult issue of college contributions. In New Jersey, unlike many states, not only can the Court compel divorced or separated parents to continue contributing to their children's support after the children are 18 years old, the Court can also compel the parents to contribute to the (often substantial) cost of college, should a child have the capability to attend. Not infrequently, a parent will inform us that he or she has little to no relationship with their child, and ask if they will still have to contribute to college.& ;
The short answer is, while the parent-child relationship is a significant factor for the Court to consider, it typically will not, on its own, absolve a parent of college contribution responsibilities. If a parent has willfully refused to have a relationship with the child, or if the parent has not made efforts to repair the parent's relationship with the child, the Court will likely still make the parent contribute to college costs. This is especially so if it seems like the parent's specific goal in not fostering a relationship was to avoid paying for college costs.
However, some cases, such as the 2013 Ocean County Chancery& ;Division (i.e. non-precedential) opinion in Black v. Black, suggest that if it is the child who has created the rift in the relationship, this could be sufficient grounds to absolve the parent of college contribution responsibility. After considering all other relevant factors, some actions may indicate the child is at fault for the rift in the relationship. Some examples are: not responding to the parent's phone calls, avoiding spending time with the parent, telling the parent that the child hates them and does not want them in their life, etc. Further, as examined in some detail in the recent Appellate Division case of Ricci v. Ricci, if the parent-child relationship is strained, and the child is socially/financially independent, this can create a special situation called "emancipation," where the child is deemed independent and the parents no longer owe any duty of support to the children at all.
College contribution is one of the most legally and factually complex issues in New Jersey family law, frequently requiring a great deal of time, effort, and specialized knowledge to successfully litigate. If you are seeking college contributions (or attempting to defend against a request for college contributions), it is highly recommended that you consult with an attorney to understand the procedures and proofs involved in making such a request. If you have an issue involving college contributions, please contact one of our experienced New Jersey Divorce and Family Law attorneys today to set up a free consultation.
THE FOREGOING IS INTENDED TO BE A GENERAL DISCUSSION OF THE LAW AND IS NOT INTENDED TO BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE A SPECIFIC QUESTION, PLEASE CONTACT OUR OFFICE TO SPEAK WITH AN ATTORNEY.& ;