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  • NJ A327
  • Regulates the authority of the court to make provision for the educational expenses of an unemancipated child in certain instances involving child support.
Introduced
(1/27/2016)
In Committee
(1/27/2016)
Crossed OverPassedSignedDead/Failed/Vetoed
2016-2017 Regular Session
This bill enumerates specific factors for the court to consider in evaluating whether to make such order for the educational expenses of an unemancipated child, whether of minor or majority age. The authority granted under the bill extends to undergraduate college education or professional or other training after graduation from high school. The types of educational expenses for which a court may make provision include tuition, room, board, dues, transportation to and from school during scheduled school recesses, books, supplies, nondiscretionary fees, registration and application costs, lab costs, computer costs, medical expenses including medical insurance and living expenses during the school year, which sums may be ordered payable to the child, to either parent, or to the educational institution directly or through a special account or trust created for such purpose, at the discretion of the court. Nothing shall preclude the court from requiring the child to contribute to his or her educational expenses in the form of scholarships, grants, work-study programs, use of assets held in the child's name, student loans or financial aid. The court shall have the authority to allocate the child's contribution between the parents and child, if warranted by the enumerated factors. The factors, many of which are currently used in decisional law, include: (1) Whether the parents, if still living with the child, would have contributed toward the child's educational expenses; (2) The effect of the background, values, and goals of the parents on the reasonableness of the expectation of the child for contribution to his or her educational expenses; (3) Any socioeconomic benefits that the child may gain from obtaining a post-high school education, including, but not limited to any benefits the child may obtain from being the first child in his or her family to obtain a post-high school education; (4) The amount of the contribution sought for the child's educational expenses; (5) The ability of the parents to pay the child's educational expenses, with the court having the discretion to impute an income to a parent who is underemployed without just cause for purposes of determining that parent's ability to pay; (6) The relationship of the requested contribution to the kind of educational institution into which the child seeks entry or course of study sought by the child; (7) The type of institution into which the child seeks to advance his or her education and the institution's graduation rate, employment placement rate, student debt rate, as well as all other relevant information regarding the institution; (8) The availability of the course of study sought by the child at a New Jersey public institution; (9) The financial resources of both parents; (10) The commitment to and aptitude of the child for the requested education; (11) The length of the course of study necessary to obtain the degree or certification sought by the child and the anticipated ability of the child to complete the course of study within that time period, with the court having the authority to limit the parent's contribution toward a child's undergraduate college expenses to four tuition years; (12) The financial resources of the child as compared with the financial resources of both parents; (13) The existence of custodial or trust funds for the benefit of the child, subject to the terms of the custodial account or trust, with the court having the authority to allocate the custodial or trust funds established by the parents during the marriage, or, in circumstances where the parties were unmarried, established during periods of cohabitation equally between the parents or otherwise, if warranted; (14) The ability of the child to earn income during the school year or during school recesses; (15) The availability of scholarships, grants, work-study programs, and or student loans, financial aid to the child, as well as the terms of repayment of any loans; (16) The child's relationship to each parent, at the time the contribution is sought, as well as in the years preceding the time the contribution is sought, including mutual affection and shared goals, responsiveness to parental advice and guidance; (17) The date on which the contribution was first requested and the date on which the parent was notified that contribution would be sought; (18) Whether the parents have children that have obtained post-high school education and the amount the parents contributed toward those post-high school education costs; (19) Whether the parent from whom contribution is sought has other children, their ages relative to the age of the child for whom contribution is sought. and, if known, the likelihood that the child or children will seek to obtain a post-high school education; (20) Whether the parent is obligated by court order or agreement to contribute to the support and maintenance of a children other than the child for whom contribution is sought; (21) The relationship of the education requested to any prior training and to the overall long-range goals of the child; and (22) Any other factors which the court may deem relevant. The bill provides that all the factors are relevant and no factor should be elevated in importance over any other factor unless the court finds otherwise. In that case the court is required to make specific written findings of fact and conclusions of law in that regard. Under the bill, when parents are in agreement on the issue of their responsibility, if any, regarding the payment of post high school education expenses and child support on behalf of a child over the age of 18, the court shall not intervene on these issues unless the court determines that the parties' agreement would result in harm to the child. Grounds for modification. The bill provides that upon an application by either parent, the court may modify a prior order directing that a parent contribute to the educational expenses of the child. The following reasons may serve as a basis for the modification or of a parent's obligation to contribute to an unemancipated child's educational expenses: (1) The child's failure to enroll in a post-high school educational program within 120 days after the child has graduated from high school or completed a graduation equivalence degree program, barring illness or disability; (2) The child's failure to maintain full-time status as determined by the institution at the post-high school education program, barring illness or disability; (3) The child's failure to maintain grades sufficient to reenroll at such institution, barring illness or disability; (4) The child's failure to provide the contributing parent with a transcript or similar official document provided by the post-high school institution that includes: (a) the courses in which the child is enrolled, (b) the courses that the child completed for each term, (c) the grades and credits received for each such course, and (d) an official document from the institution listing the courses in which the child is enrolled for the upcoming term and the number of credits for each such course, unless the court finds that providing this information would cause harm to the child; (5) The child's estrangement from a contributing parent, not due to documented abuse; or (6) Any other reason that makes the modification of the prior order fit, reasonable, and just, given the parties' and child's circumstances. Under the bill, if the court terminates the parent's obligation to contribute to the child's educational expenses, the termination shall be final with the parent's obligation not eligible for reinstatement. A parent's obligation to pay child support and contribute to the educational expenses of a child who has been diagnosed with a developmental disability, or whose physical disability or diagnosed health problem limits the child's ability to maintain full-time enrollment in a post-high school institution shall remain open to review so long as such child is enrolled in and attending an institution for post-high school education and the child continues to meet the other requirements of this section. As used in the bill, "post-high school education" means any postsecondary training or schooling for which the student is assessed a fee and attends classes regularly including but not limited to a community college, vocational school, technical school, undergraduate college, or undergraduate university.
Judiciary
Introduced, Referred to Assembly Judiciary Committee  (on 1/27/2016)
 
 

Date Chamber Action Description
1/27/2016 A Introduced, Referred to Assembly Judiciary Committee
Date Motion Yea Nay Other
None specified