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When a couple with kids decides to divorce, they often consider how they might pay for their children’s potential college costs down the road. In New Jersey, a parent’s responsibility to pay child support and college expenses past the child’s 18th birthday is standard. However, As New Jersey’s Superior Court recently explained, the law requires courts to follow specific procedures in considering the arrangement.

school kidsHusband and Wife divorced in 2002, following more than nine years of marriage. They entered into a settlement agreement as part of the divorce, under which the couple agreed to share legal and physical custody of their two daughters. They also initially agreed that Husband would pay Wife about $140 a month in child support, and they later agreed to kick that amount up to $800 per month in 2009. The agreement further provided that each former spouse would be equally on the hook for their kids’ net college expenses, or the expenses after any available financial assistance like loans, grants, and scholarships.

The former spouses wound up back in court after a dust up over their oldest daughter’s college expenses in the fall of 2012. Daughter was awarded an extensive financial assistance package from her school, but additional loans were also required to make up the difference. A trial court granted in part Husband’s request to modify the child support arrangement. The court found that a certain PLUS loan being used to finance part of Daughter’s schooling was only available to parents and that Husband and Wife were jointly responsible for paying it.

 

The court also said that the child support arrangement should be altered, based on changes in the spouses’ income. It noted that both spouses were making about $75,000 at the time of the split, but Wife was now earning $225,000 a year, and Husband was taking in about $110,000. It ordered Wife to pay Husband just under $100 per month in child support.

Reversing the decision on appeal, the Superior Court said the trial judge didn’t go through the analysis required by law before altering the child support arrangement. The trial court properly referred to its Child Support Guidelines, which give courts some direction for resolving support issues in split-parenting situations, according to the Superior Court. That included noting that Daughter was living at school and then with her father in the summers, as well as the changes in incomes. Since Daughter was now in college and living at school, however, the Court said the trial judge also had to consider New Jersey Statute 2A:34-23. That law requires judges to look at a number of specific factors, including the child’s needs, the parents’ incomes, living standards, earning abilities, ages, health, assets, and other factors. As a result, the Court remanded the case back to the trial judge with instructions to consider those factors.

As this case makes clear, a person considering a divorce should consult an experienced attorney before proceeding and definitely before entering into any settlement or other agreements. The New Jersey child support attorneys at Helfand & Associates have more than 100 years of combined experience representing clients in a wide range of divorce, child custody, and child support cases. Our lawyers work diligently to ease the stress on clients in what can be a trying process by building persuasive cases for the people whom we represent.

Our offices are conveniently located in Whippany and New York City. We are happy to offer clients a free consultation in family law and other cases. Contact us online, call our New Jersey office at (973) 428-0800, or call our New York City office at (646) 213-9053 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys.

 

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  • Whippany Office
    575 Route 10 East
    Suite 1
    Whippany, New Jersey 07981
    Phone: 973-428-0800
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    420 Lexington Ave.
    New York, New York 10170
    Phone: 646-213-9053
Testimonials
  • "Without Tanya and her time, the really unpleasant experience of getting divorced would have been even worse. They were able to settle the matter very quickly and helped me fit this into my tight schedule allowing me to leave to move abroad for my dissertation research on time without having to delay the trip because of the divorce. They also did all of it within my very tight budget. Thank you so much for your help and dedication to my legal matter!"  - AG

  • "Tanya and her Associates are outstanding! What I admire most about Tanya is her knowledge of the law with her keen negotiation skills to foster mediation. Her strategies efficiently resolve conflict leading to the resolution of cases. She and her team have an outstanding work ethic, know what data are needed, and get the job done. It is a pleasure to work with such wonderful professionals."  - Tara, Whippany

  • "I found Ms. Helfand's knowledge and tenacity most reassuring during the ordeal of my divorce. She was steadfast in her guidance and was very effective in her negotiations on my behalf. I would recommend her without a second thought."  -Jonathan

  • "Ms. Helfand was very professional and helpful with our bankruptcy case. Her advice was very useful and helped us make the proper decisions for our situation. In addition, she was very supportive during a very difficult time for us. Finally, she set very specific fee expectations and there were no surprises when it was completed. I would use her services again and would recommend her, without question."

  • "She is Incredible, very quick responding to the other party. Very professional and courteous. I highly recommend her. She has a great passion and love for every single case."

  • "Tanya and her team were very professional handling my divorce proceedings. She was very proactive in making the other attorney finally get the process moving forward. I would recommend her to anyone looking for legal services."  -Scott

  • "Ms. Helfand strategized & processed, both, my Divorce & Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. As both cases were emotionally and legally challenging, Ms. Helfand proved to be an empowering Mentor along the path to clarity for which I am truly grateful.I highly recommend her legal expertise to anyone who is seeking a confident, savvy & caring attorney to become at peace with self and any legal matters."  -Vas

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