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Who Pays for the Kids’ College in Divorce?

divorce and college tuitionAmong the many issues facing parties while going through the divorce process is the question of who is responsible for the out of pocket costs for higher  education.  There is no set formula to determine this.  However, there are certain parameters which are important to keep in mind.

First, once the parties have agreed where the child is going to attend college, an application for financial aid is mandatory if financial circumstances dictate same.  The income of both parties will be considered.  There will generally be an obligation to apply for all available financial aid, whether from the college itself or Federal and State grants, loans and scholarships,  The parties, despite their differences on many things should attempt to cooperate in these applications as it will save both out of pocket expenses. 

Once the financial aid package is determined, is critical to know that BOTH parents have an obligation to contribute to the out of pocket expenses  The percentages will be determined by the respective incomes of the parties as well as their own financial needs and ability to pay. Therefore,  be certain to be prepared to demonstrate your financial condition and your potential ability to contribute to the child’s expenses. If there is a college fund that had previously been established, those funds must be applied first in addition to any financial aid before determining the out of pocket costs.

The determination of the obligation for college can be confusing and financially critical.  Be certain to review this issue carefully with your attorney to assure that you are fully protected and your child is as well.

Cherry Hill Divorce Lawyers at the Law Offices of Richard C. Klein, P.A. Help Determine How Your Child’s Tuition Should be Paid

Call the attorneys at the Law Offices of Richard C. Klein at (856) 544-9155 or contact us online.

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New Jersey Child Support Statute

Individuals that pay or receive child support need to stay up-to-date with support laws and statutes. One of the best ways to stay informed is to contact a Cherry Hill divorce lawyer. We will keep you informed of any changes in New Jersey child support laws.

The Termination of Obligation to pay Child Support, N.J.S.A  declares the age of 19 to be the legal cutoff age for support unless parents have worked out another agreement where the cutoff age would be 23.

Many parents wonder about child support age limits as it is important to note that age limits vary by state. Parents can also work out special terms that extend or limit child support based on several factors. A child with special needs, enrolling in college can have their support extended or terminated.

States base the support termination age on the age of majority, when a child is no longer considered a minor and is now an adult. People believe the age of adulthood is 18, but that is not the age of majority for every state. In New Jersey, the age is 19.

When a New Jersey child reaches the age of majority, the support order is immediately null and void. Typically, termination takes effect on the child’s birthday. or guardians must draft an amended agreement before the child’s 19 birthday to ensure continued support.

Special Needs

The statute offers protections for children with disabilities or special needs. Under Section E, parties can draft a financial agreement that takes effect after the support order ends. The difference between the support order and the agreement lies within the courts. New Jersey child support courts will not be responsible for the enforcement of the agreement or payment collection as everything is left up to the parties.

Children with special needs have additional care costs figured into their support order. Once that ceases, both parties may require help determining the amount each side needs to contribute. Now that the child is an adult, they may be eligible for an individual insurance plan. This can alter the conditions of a financial agreement and a New Jersey divorce lawyer will help work out the details.

College

If a child enrolls in college before turning 19, the child support order remains in effect. Typically, the custodial parent submits a college expense support application to the courts and the courts take the parent’s income history and any financial aid or scholarships into account.

Once officials have reviewed all relevant information, they decide in the best interest of the child. Courts can decide to increase or decrease support based on several factors, such as the child’s living arrangement, as courts may reduce the order if the child lives on campus.

Cherry Hill Divorce Lawyers at the Law Offices of Richard C. Klein Help Clients with Child Support Orders

We help clients draft a child support agreement. If you need help understanding the statute and drafting an order, call us today at (856) 544-9155 or contact us online.

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When Child Support is Excessive

Throughout both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, high income earning families are not controlled by child support guidelines but rather, an individual analysis is required of the reasonable needs of children. It has always been presumed, and the courts have always ruled that the good fortune of a high income earning parent should “trickle down” for the children. Children of high income earners generally have more options available to them, are involved in more activities, vacations, and tend to enjoy the accoutrements of a more lavish lifestyle, including education.

However, are there limits? Is it prudent that the budget of a family of extremely high earners should never be questioned? The Appellate Division in New Jersey has recently decided a matter which will have implications on both sides of the river.

Michael Strahan was a star linebacker for the New York Giants in the National Football League for years. He separated from his wife, having married in July 1999, and his wife had twin girls, born October 2004. A divorce was filed in March 2005 with joint legal custody being granted.

There is no question that the marital standard of living was well in excess of $1,000,000 per year for the family. Therefore, the question became one of the “reasonable need” of the children. The trial Court awarded $630,000 per year solely on behalf of the children! Further, the Court ordered the father to be responsible for 91% of the entire award. Strahan appealed.

In an enlightening decision, the Appellate Court reversed much of the monthly child support award and determined that the obligation was “beyond their reasonable needs,” referring to the children. The reasonableness of the children’s needs included such items as $30,000 in landscaping, audio visual expenses of $3,000 per year, and $36,000 per year for equipment and furnishings on behalf of the children. The Appellate Division concluded that these needs were completely unreasonable and were not given scrutiny by the trial Court, likely because of the high level of income of Mr. Strahan. The Court’s attitude is made clear from the rhetorical question, “How many ponies does one child need?” The Court reversed the decision. The importance of this decision demonstrates that in all cases where the overall income exceeds the maximum encompassed by child support guidelines, the Court must do an exhaustive analysis of the actual and reasonable needs of the children. While not disputing that the needs of the children of high income earners may be greater, there should not be a “carte blanche” approach to awarding child support. Excesses should be obvious and discouraged.

Therefore, when analyzing what a child support obligation is, it is important for parties and their attorneys to analyze the reasonableness of expenses being claimed, the actual details of the expenses, and to be able to justify those expenses to a Court. While the child support award may still be substantial, it is in no way limitless.