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New Jersey parents ordered to pay daughter's tuition

Some New Jersey parents may wonder if they are obligated to pay for their child's college education. This depends on whether the parents are divorced or not. The New Jersey Supreme Court in 1982 ruled that college might be considered something that is essential for a child's future, and divorced parents may be obligated to pay for their child's higher education.

The 1982 case spoke to divorced parents and did not address intact families. Specifically, when parents are not divorced, they have a right to raise children as they see fit. Justice O'Connor wrote in 2000 that the rights of parents in their children's care and custody are fundamental. This case has been the standard by which other cases are decided.

In New Jersey, one case is looking at this issue from the perspective of divorced parents. The parents are divorced and remarried with each having younger children. The daughter sued her parents for her county college tuition. According to the daughter's attorney, the parents together earn $272,000 annually and, as the law mentions, are able to offer their daughter assistance. The parents have not paid despite a judge ordering them to do so in October 2013. The judge upheld his decision on Dec. 8.

Another issue is whether the parents are obligated to pay their daughter's tuition for Temple University after $26,000 was paid for by financial aid. According to a New Jersey judge, the remaining $16,000 is the parents' obligation. The parents do not accept that decision and continue to argue against it in court.

In some cases, parents incorporate the college expenses into the divorce agreement, apart from child support. An attorney may structure an agreement where both parents pay a portion of the cost. This may alleviate future disputes.

Source: Reuters, "Are You on the Hook for Your Child's College Tuition?" Liz Weston, Mar. 6, 2014

Source: Philly.com, "Judge: Parents must pay daughter's county college tuition", Michael Boren, December 09, 2014

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