The majority of divorced parents are happy to make reasonable contributions to their children's college education. It does, however, seem unfair to continue paying for an education that your child clearly doesn't appreciate. There's also the possibility that your child is not a good fit for college, even if he or she is trying their best. These possibilities, plus all the relevant factors in between, must be considered by the family courts prior to deciding on a parent's obligation towards higher education expenses. In addition, issues such as the parent- child relationship, each party's available income, assets and liabilities, and preexisting support orders are also factored into the court's final decision.
The main source of frustration for parents is their child's commitment and aptitude for college, as reflected by their attendance, grades and ability to stick with a course of study. A parent, for instance, may grow frustrated with a 21-year-old child who is not remotely close to graduation after failing several courses and changing their major several times. Another example is the parent who is certain of the child's inability to be successful in a college environment, even before he or she applies . Perhaps the child is intelligent, but has an extensive history of apathy and laziness towards schoolwork, and little respect for teachers and other authority figures. In that type of situation, it's not hard to see why a parent would object to paying for college costs, especially for an expensive, out-of-state school.
The non-committed student, in particular, the ones who seem to have at least psychologically moved beyond their parent's sphere of influence, is one of the most challenging legal dilemmas for family court judges. While judges are given a guideline of factors to weigh against each family's personal circumstances, they must exercise a level of discretion over how much weight should be given to each factor. However, prior rulings have established that the non-existence of a relationship between parent and child is not automatic grounds to deny support. Furthermore, a parent is generally expected to object to higher education contributions before the costs are incurred. That means parents whose children are already in school will have a harder time denying support, so it's important to be involved in your child's college decisions from the beginning, if at all possible.
As you can see, fighting a request for college support is incredibly difficult, especially in New Jersey where the courts tend to favor an adult's child right to a college education. Even if it appears that a student is taking too long to graduate or not trying hard enough, the burden of proof is on the parent to show that the child is undeserving of financial support. Thus, parents who are in this situation should speak to an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible. For more information on contributing towards college education costs and other child support obliagations, please speak with the attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.
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