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Court refuses to budge on divorce settlement

Sources report that the New Jersey Appellate Division has agreed with a trial-court ruling that ordered a father to pay $112,500 for his estranged daughter's law school tuition. During their divorce, the father and mother signed an agreement in which they each consented to pay for half of their daughter's graduate level education.

However, the settlement made no mention of expense caps; when the daughter later decided to attend Cornell Law School, the father refused to pay the school's $74,580 per year tuition. He cited his financial difficulties and estrangement from his daughter as reasons that he should not have to pay. Instead, he offered $7,500 per year for the daughter to attend Rutgers Law School. When the case went to trial, the court ruled against the father. The father appealed, but the appellate court upheld the decision. The father's income level was not disclosed, and it is unknown what effect, if any, that may have had on the judge's decision.

As this case makes evident, settlements made during a divorce are legally binding. The consequences of divorce agreements can be prolonged, and even if relationships are different at the time the consequences are realized, the stipulations of divorce agreements still apply. While it may be impossible to account for some changes, such as estrangement, rudimentary expense caps on agreements like the one the father made may have prevented this issue from occurring.

Many couples going through divorce want to ensure that their children's future education is accounted for. An attorney may be able to aid in drafting such agreements to help couples reach agreeable terms.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Divorce Settlements and Higher Education", Brad Reid , March 13, 2014

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