Law Lessons from MARGARET SOSA CHINEA v. ROBERT VARGAS, App. Div., A-0338-09T1, March 31, 2011:
In determining the extent to which parents must contribute to a child’s college education, the Family Part must consider the twelve factors set forth in Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529, 545 (1982):
In evaluating the claim for contribution toward the cost of higher education, courts should consider all relevant factors, including
(1) whether the parent, if still living with the child, would have contributed toward the costs of the requested higher education;
(2) the effect of the background, values and goals of the parent on the reasonableness of the expectation of the child for higher education;
(3) the amount of the contribution sought by the child for the cost of higher education;
(4) the ability of the parent to pay that cost;
(5) the relationship of the requested contribution to the kind of school or course of study sought by the child;
(6) the financial resources of both parents;
(7) the commitment to and aptitude of the child for the requested education;
(8) the financial resources of the child, including assets owned individually or held in custodianship or trust;
(9) the ability of the child to earn income during the school year or on vacation;
(10) the availability of financial aid in the form of college grants and loans;
(11) the child’s relationship to the paying parent, including mutual affection and shared goals as well as responsiveness to parental advice and guidance; and
(12) the relationship of the education requested to any prior training and to the overall longrange goals of the child.
These factors were reflected in later legislation concerning the parents’ child support obligations. N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(a); see Kiken v. Kiken, 149 N.J. 441, 449-50 (1997).
The supporting parent does not have veto power over the choice of an educational institution, nor is the child necessarily limited to an in-state institution. Finger v. Zenn, 335 N.J. Super. 438, 444-45 (App. Div. 2000), certif. denied, 167 N.J. 633 (2001).
When a child is attending college and living on campus, contributions to college expenses and continued support for that child are “discrete yet related obligations,” the extent of which “depends on the facts of each case.” Hudson v. Hudson, 315 N.J. Super. 577, 584 (App. Div. 1998).
College expenses and child support due to the parent of primary residence are not governed by the child support guidelines when the child attends college away from home. Child Support Guidelines, Pressler & Verniero, Current N.J. Court Rules, Appendix IX-A to R. 5:6A, ¶ 18 at 2447 (2011). The decision to allocate responsibility for college expenses and support is left to the discretion of the judge, which is to be applied after considering the relevant facts. Hudson, supra, 315 N.J. Super. at 582, 584-85.
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