POST JUDGEMENT MOTION FOR COLLEGE EXPENSES

Defendant appealed from a November 9, 2018 Family Part order denying her post-judgment motion to compel plaintiff to contribute to their son’s college expenses for his sophomore, junior, and senior years, including loans taken out by the son and co-signed by defendant. Also, both parties appealed from the denial of their respective applications for counsel fees. The parties married in October 1983 and had two children who have completed college and are emancipated. The parties divorced in 1997. The judgment of divorce incorporated a Property Settlement Agreement that the parties signed. The PSA stated the parties were each responsible for supporting their children through college, based upon their respective ability to contribute. The costs were also to be determined after the children made any individual contributions including loans. One child attended a four-year university. The parties evenly shared the cost for the child’s freshman year. Plaintiff then declared personal bankruptcy and did not contribute for the following three years. Defendant sought a court order requiring plaintiff to contribute an equal share of their son’s college expenses. The lower court denied the request, finding no evidence that the PSA obligated plaintiff to make any of the requested payments. The court also denied each party’s request for attorneys’ fees. On appeal, the court affirmed the lower court’s rulings. The court found no abuse by the trial court as its analysis of plaintiff’s responsibility for contributing to the child’s college expenses was supported by the terms of the PSA and the record. Furthermore, as defendant waited three years to pursue a court order, after the child graduated from college, the lower court properly considered this delay in its analysis as weighing in favor of denial of defendant’s request. The lower court also properly denied the parties’ requests for attorneys’ fees whereas the underlying motion was properly denied but also filed in good faith.

First published in the NJSBA Daily Briefing 3/3/2020