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Can a non-custodial parent be forced to pay for a college they can't afford?

Haskell, NJ |

My husband's son has his heart set on a $60,000 per year college. Multiply that by 4 years and that equals more than our mortgage.

Can the state of NJ force my husband to pay tuition bills that he can not afford?

He pays child support and all health insurance premiums, and has zero custody of his son and never sees/talks to him. We live in TX and the mother and son are in NJ.

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Attorney answers 4


Yes and no. The court can make a parent contribute to a child's college but not beyond an amount the court finds the parent is able to pay. The lead cases that define the standard for the court to order college can be found at Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529 (1983) and Gac v. Gac, 186 N.J. 535 (2006). Simply put, college contribution is different from child support and does not replace child support. The court must determine, among many other things, whether the parents would have sent the child to college if they remained together and the financial ability of both parents to contribute as well as the child's ability to contribute and any other issues or resources available.

Most judges will require the child to seek all grants, loans and scholarships before ordering any parental contribution.

If you want to speak with an experienced attorney who is familiar with these areas of law, call us at 973-562-0100. Our firm is concentrated in family law and estate planning case.

Good luck.

Brad M. Micklin, Esq.
187 Washington Ave., Suite 2F
Nutley, NJ 07110

This information is based upon the limited facts you presented. My advice Is based on New Jersey law and may be different if I find that the facts presented are different. Additionally, this answer does not contain any confidential information nor does it create any attorney/client relationship.


I really do not have enough facts to give advise. I would suggest calling an attorney in the county where the matter will be heard.

With that said, if there is no agreement with regard to how college will be handled, the case law in NJ says that divorced parents have an obligation to provide a college education for their children. The court looks at a number of factors to determine what that contribution should be. See: for a list of factors.

There are also cases that say a non-custodial parent is not obligated to pay for college if that parent has no relationship and was not permitted any decision making authority regarding the choice of college.

Again, college is a huge obligation and you should consult an attorney in the county where the matter will be heard to discuss your particular facts. If the case will be in Monmouth or a neighboring county, please give my office a call for a free consultation. (732-749-3500). Please just mention Avvo.

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The response provided by Brad Michael Micklin, Esq., is thorough and accurate. Please refer to the same.

The Answer provided was based on the limited information provided, and represents information based on the law in general, not a legal opinion that can be relied upon. Before a formal legal opinion can be offered I would need an opportunity to review all possible relevant facts and circumstances. You cannot rely on the advice of an attorney given over the internet. The exact facts of your sitaution, including facts which you have not mentioned in your question, may completely change the opinion that is being offered. Please be aware that the above comments are neither protected by attorney-client privilege, nor may the same be the basis for a malpractice lawsuit.


There is absolutely a possibility that he will have to pay a portion of the educational expenses. It will be based upon a number of factors, some of which are financially based and others that even take into consideration the relationship between parent and child. If it is non-existent, there are circumstances where a parent is relieved of college payment obligations. The courts in the State of New Jersey tend to start their analysis with a position to favor the child's education and to make an effort to support the child's desire to attend school, so long as the child has the dedication and aptitude for the course of study. There is generally a presumption that the child will be expected to apply for all scholarships, grants, loans and aid available to them before any parent has a payment contribution obligation. The extent unto which the parent was made aware of the anticipated schooling, costs, application process, admissions, etc will also be relevant. Are there any terms set forth in an agreement that set forth how college will be treated? Are there limitations or anticipated procedures? If you want to have a free initial telephone consultation with one of our family lawyers, call 973-520-8822. Attached is a link about child education expenses from my website...

The information provided is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. This information is designed for general information only. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your specific situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and emails. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

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