The responsibility of college education expenses between divorced parents is often a source of conflict, and many times the parties end up back in court even though they have been divorced for years. Although New Jersey law obligates divorced parents to contribute to their children’s college education expenses, a recent lower court case dealt with the issue of a parent’s responsibility if the child wants nothing to do with that parent.
In that case, the judge ruled that a college age student, whose divorced father had an obligation to pay toward his son’s college education expenses, could be compelled to attend counseling sessions with his father as a condition to receiving financial assistance.
Under the father and mother’s Marital Settlement Agreement, the father and son were to attend therapy sessions together given their discord. The father wanted to go to joint therapy sessions with his son, but the son refused. The Court recognized that the parties’ son, while still legally unemancipated, was an adult, and he should be held to a "different level of maturity, responsibility and accountability for his current choices and actions. . ."
While the Court stated that it could not force the son to go to counseling with his father, the Court could consider his refusal as a factor in determining whether the father had an ongoing obligation to contribute to his son’s college education expenses.
As in any college contribution case, many factors come into play before a Court will determine a parent’s obligation. Please note that the child’s relationship with the parent is just one factor.