Will lawmakers change the way courts handle college funding decisions?

Without a doubt, one of the most closely followed and controversial family law cases here in New Jersey over the last year has been the one involving divorced parents who were ordered by a judge to pay for their daughter’s college tuition.

To recap, the parents divorced when the now 21-year-old daughter was only a toddler, and went on to remarry and raise more children with their new spouses. However, the couple remained amicable and worked together when it came to parenting decisions concerning their daughter.

They indicated that when their daughter graduated from high school back in 2012, they agreed that the she would attend a local college and live with her mother. However, the relationship between the daughter and her parents appears to have deteriorated such that she moved in with her grandparents, and filed a lawsuit seeking to force her divorced parents to cover not only her previously incurred college tuition but also her tuition at a different out-of-state university they played no role in selecting.

As referenced earlier, the presiding judge ultimately sided with the daughter’s attorney who successfully argued that the requirement that divorced parents were responsible for college expenses was clearly established by legal precedent dating back more than 40 years.

Not surprisingly, the divorced parents have already indicated that they will be appealing the decision, which will require them to pay over $16,000 in college costs, arguing that state law unjustly treats divorced parents differently from married parents.

“We want to appeal just because we feel that the law is being used in the wrong way in our case,” said the mother. “No judge would come into a married household and say, ‘You have to pay for that child to go to whatever college she wants.’.

Indeed, the case has caught the attention of Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-Gloucester) and Assemblyman Christopher Brown (R-Burlington) who are currently working on legislation that would prohibit state courts from treating college funding decisions concerning married and divorced parents differently.

“If the law treats divorced parents differently than married parents, that’s unfair,” said Moriarty.

It remains to be seen whether such legislation, which would bring New Jersey into alignment with the majority of states concerning divorced parents having to funding post-secondary education expenses, would gain the necessary traction.

Stay tuned for updates …

If you have questions or concerns regarding divorce or divorce-related issues like child support, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.

Source: The Daily Journal, “Family’s tuition fight heads to Statehouse,” Geoff Mulvihil, Dec. 14, 2014

Date Published: February 7, 2017


Written by: Cooper Levenson, P.A.

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