With the February 2017 change to NJ Child Support laws in S-1046/A-2721, all New Jersey child support orders will automatically terminate when the child reaches the age of 19, unless the parents specify otherwise in their child support agreement. As 19 is the age at which many children are pursuing post-secondary educational programs like college, university, or vocational training, this automatic termination of child support can place a great deal of strain on many parent’s finances at a critical moment in their child’s lives.
However, as the educational demands of many professional positions have increased, so has New Jersey’s legal understanding that college education is a necessity for children. There are now a number of precedent-setting cases which establish that child support for a child’s education is a mandatory requirement. This means that if you are a parent whose child support agreement does not account for your child’s college expenses, it may be possible to secure support for this expense through a court motion.
At Jacobs Berger, our attorneys have extensive experience helping parents across Madison, Randolph, Tewksbury, Florham Park, Hanover, Morristown, and Morris County with all manners of divorce and family law issues, including child support agreements and child support modifications and termination. Whether you are seeking to plan for your child’s post-secondary educational expenses in your child support agreement at the time of the divorce, or need to modify your existing child support agreement to reflect these financial needs, our firm is prepared to provide you with the knowledgeable, effective, and compassionate legal service that you and your family need and deserve.
Call our office to discuss your options for accounting for your child’s post-secondary education in your child support agreement in a comprehensive and confidential Strategic Planning Session today.
Planning for College in Your Initial Child Support Agreement
The easiest method for planning for your child’s post-secondary education is to do so during your divorce as part of your initial child support agreement. As previously noted, all child support obligations will automatically terminate in New Jersey when your child reaches the age of 19, so it is important that you establish a plan for your child’s post-secondary education during your divorce if you believe that they will seek higher education after high-school.
This plan will involve estimating how much your child’s post-secondary education will cost, including any potential scholarships or grants you believe they will be able to secure, and what kind of post-secondary education they are likely to pursue. You and your spouse will also need to discuss how much you can each contribute towards your child’s college education, and negotiate for a child support settlement which takes into account these expenses, and the ability of both parents to support their child.
At Jacobs Berger, our child support attorneys regularly work with financial planners in just these kinds of situations in order to gain the best possible understanding of the potential expenses, and each parent’s financial situation. Once we have a clearer picture of these important aspects, we can work with you to negotiate a child support settlement which makes the most sense for you, your children, and your family’s finances. While we always seek to resolve these conflicts first through negotiation and mediation, if and when these approaches fail, we are prepared to aggressively represent your interests in court, and help you ensure that your child support settlement accurately reflects the financial needs of you and your children.
Modifying an Existing Child Support Order to Account for College Expenses
If, however, your child support agreement is set to terminate on your child’s 19th birthday or does not accurately take into account the financial needs of your child and their post-secondary education, it may be possible to modify your child support agreement through a court hearing and order. The easiest option for modifying your current child support order is by discussing the matter with your former spouse, and mutually agreeing to a change to your child support order in the form of a “consent order”.
If however, you and your former spouse cannot agree on how to handle your child’s post-secondary educational costs, and there is a dispute over which parent will pay for a child’s education and how much they will contribute, the court will schedule a “plenary” hearing, meaning a full hearing and court review. Before this plenary hearing can take place, both parents and their child support modification attorneys will need to exchange a variety of documents and relevant information including tax returns and income statements, and each prepares a Case Information Sheet, a document outlining a complete list of their assets and their expected outcomes.
The court will then review these “discoveries”, and evaluate the financial contribution of each parent towards their child’s post-secondary education based on a number of different factors, including:
- The educational background of each parent, and the reasonable expectation that they have for their child securing higher education
- The amount needed by the child for their higher education
- The ability of each parent to contribute towards this cost
- Whether each parent would have contributed towards the child’s education had they remained married
- The financial resources of the child including individually held assets or trust funds
- The ability of the child to seek employment during the school year or during vacation times
- The availability of financial aid for the child
- The relationship of the child and the supporting parent, including mutual affection, shared goals, and responsiveness of the child to that parent’s guidance and advice
- The commitment and aptitude of the child to their higher education
- The relationship between the requested education and the child’s long term goals and prior training and education
- Any other factor the court deems relevant to the matter
While courts will consider all of these factors and sometimes more during a child support modification hearing, how much weight they give to each factor, and their resulting decisions, often depends greatly upon the ability of your child support attorney to present your case, your individual needs and interests, and how they specifically relate to your child’s education.
Our child support modification attorneys are prepared to thoroughly review your family’s unique situation, and work with you to present the most effective and compelling case possible to the courts in any child support modification matter in order to ensure your financial status and future is properly taken into account by the court when making their final decision.
Contact Our College Education and Child Support Lawyers Today
At Jacobs Berger, our attorneys have extensive experience helping parents across the greater Morris County area with all manner of divorce and family law matters, including drafting comprehensive child support agreements, and modifying child support agreements when they no longer accurately reflect the needs of you or your child.
Our unique approach to conflict resolution focuses on finding solutions which ensure the stability of the families involved, rather than over-litigating matters and sowing strife and resentment, costing families precious relationships and resources needed to protect their futures, and the futures of their children. However, when the situation calls for it, we have also proven to be tenacious litigators for our clients when negotiations break down, and court intervention becomes necessary.
To speak with our firm today in a comprehensive and confidential Strategic Planning Session regarding your divorce, your child support agreement, or a child support modification, please contact us online, or through our Morristown, NJ office at (973) 710-4366.