Do I have to contribute to my child’s college education if I reside in New Jersey?

July 10, 2023 | By Michelle L. Ringel

With summer underway, many recent high school graduates are starting to prepare to commence college in August and September. The average cost of tuition, room and board, and related fees can be costly. If the student is attending college out of state, it can be even more expensive.

New Jersey Courts have held that divorced and separated parents have a responsibility to contribute to their child’s higher education if they have the financial means to do so. The seminal case of Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529 (1982) sets forth the following factors for the Court to consider when determining each parent’s contribution toward a child’s college education:

  1. Whether the parent, if still living with the child would have contributed toward the cost of 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 contribution sought by the child to pay for higher education;
  4. The parent’s capacity to pay the 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 child’s financial resources, including assets owned by the child or held in custodianship or trust;
  9. The ability of the child to earn income;
  10. Whether financial aid is available in the form of college grants and aid;
  11. The relationship between the child and the paying parent; and
  12. The relationship between the education, any prior requisite training, and the long-range goals of the child.

A parent’s contribution to college in New Jersey is fact sensitive and handled on a case-by-case basis. If you are looking to avoid costly and protracted litigation, it is best for both parents to stay informed on the schools the child is applying to and considering. It is also helpful to assist the child in applying for all available scholarships, loans, grants, and financial aid.

It is best not to wait last minute to address college contribution. If your marital settlement agreement or custody Order does not specifically set forth how college contribution will be determined, and you and your co-parent cannot reach an agreement on how to pay for your child’s college education and related expenses, you should consult with an attorney who can assist you with commencing the process to address college contribution before your child commences college.

The information contained in this publication should not be construed as legal advice, is not a substitute for legal counsel, and should not be relied on as such. For legal advice or answers to specific questions, please contact one of our attorneys.

About the Authors

Michelle Ringel - Mount Laurel family law mediation

Michelle L. Ringel


Mount Laurel Family Law Mediation Michelle focuses her practice on all aspects of family law including but not limited to family law mediation, divorce, equitable distribution, child support, alimony/spousal support, premarital agreements,...

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