Advice for students with divorced parents?

I think beyond who will pay or who won’t, it can be a real challenge to get an NCP to even fill out the necessary paperwork, without which the kid is guaranteed to get nothing (but any federal aid they may qualify for based on FAFSA).

True a parent in the home can also refuse to do the paperwork but it’s far less likely.

This isn’t a deadbeat dad, folks. This is someone paying child support (and there is no evidence that the mom had to take the dad to court to enforce him holding up his end of the bargain).

It’s sad for the OP but if the income disparity seemed likely when the parents were divorcing (Mom teaches pre-school, Dad is in private wealth management) then it is worrying that the issue of college wasn’t dealt with at the time. I know a few cases which seem similar (obviously I don’t know the OP personally) and the parent with the lower income often makes some very shortsighted decisions at the time of the divorce- hanging on to a house which she (it’s usually the mom) really can’t afford to maintain and live in; hanging on to all the furnishings, etc. So the dad gets to walk away with the fungible assets plus the larger income, and the mom soon realizes that property taxes, maintenance, heating bills, insurance are way more than she ever realized during the marriage.

And no, you aren’t going to sell a sofa to pay for college (again- mom remembers what they paid for all the stuff, not factoring in that everything has depreciated by 90% once it sits in your house so it ain’t worth much).

OP-- sad for you that this is your reality right now. Any way to build some bridges with your dad? Surely he wants you to go to college, no?

quote: His involvement in my family is minimal; he only pays court-ordered child support.


In my experience, “court ordered” means “taken out of his paycheck whether he wants to pay it or not”.

In every state the court can order child support. In some states, child support is paid through a court registry whether the parents are on friendly terms, willing to pay, or not. No choice but to use the registry. It’s all court ordered if it is part of the dissolution order.

@blossom IMO a parent making over 250/year refusing to pay for college is a deadbeat.

And NJ law is pretty clear about a parent’s obligation to pay for or contribute to college, depending on the parent’s income/asset level.

Being a NCP, I gotta defend the other side here. Sometimes CP badmouths the NCP, and creates a wedge in order to seem like they are the main parent, creating some alienation. When this is done, no wonder the NCP is not keen when the relationship is damaged. I was against my kids going to an expensive private college because the CP thought that since I made the money, I had to pay for it. She would say that the reason they could not go to an expensive college, is because I was cheap. I did not like that, and neither would my new wife. CPs should create bridges between their kids and the NCP, then naturally they will be more invested in investing in the future.

In my case. The CP did allow me to continue a relationship with my kids, and things are going great. Both kids got good Merit scholarships, and I am very involved. But I have seen the counterproductive actions of CPs messing everything up.

Are you going to consider any other facts before coming to the conclusion? Or are you so sure that there is zero justification, ever, for a parent who makes over $250k a year refusing to pay for college?

The NJ cases you have cited, and the common law they have established, only have to do with parents who are divorced, correct? In other words, there is no obligation under NJ law for parents who are married to pay for or contribute to a college education for their child, right?

Often the common law/case law in such cases will only apply to those who have somehow put themselves under court oversight. It doesn’t have to be a divorce case but foster care, a petition for child support (never married parents), child wants to be emancipated, child endangerment case filed social services, death of a parent. A similar situation may arise in grandparents’ right cases. You need some type of court involvement before a petition can be filed by a grandparent.

It’s rare. Colorado doesn’t require any child support after age 18 under the reasoning that no parent is required to support an adult child. Why would a court order a child of divorce to be provided a college education when it couldn’t require a non-divorced parent to pay? NY has a law about providing housing until age 21. I think Indiana also has case law.

And realize that the college is not going to get involved. If the NCP is ordered to pay and doesn’t, the recourse is for the CP to go back to court to college the money. The bill is going to go to the student. The student is still going to be screwed waiting for the NCP to pay. Much more reliable to go to the FAFSA only/merit school.

The cases I have seen are only in the context of a divorce/child support in NJ, with the following exception…There was a really infamous case several years ago where a girl was going to a private HS and she was totally disobeying her parents, and her parents warned her that if she didn’t get her act together, they wouldn’t pay her tuition any more and she’d have to go to public HS. Well, she continued to disobey, she moved in with the neighbors, and she sued her parents for the tuition money. The court found that the demands of the parents were reasonable (but if my vague memory serves me right, the court was really hesitant to say what is reasonable because they don’t want to second guess parents and only want to get involved in egregious cases), and that the girl had no right to continue to have her parents pay tuition.

At that time I remember that there was a lot of talk about whether the result would have been the same if this same situation occurred in a divorce situation. Most people felt that there was a good chance there would have been a different outcome if it were a divorce situation and parents disagreed with each other on the issue. I think the feeling was that kids get caught up into the mess between the parents too much, and the court would want to give the benefit of the doubt to the child, and the general recognition that once there is a divorce in some situations at least 1 of the parents acts differently than he/she would have than if they had stayed together because now other things have come into play that have nothing to do with the best interest of the child (such as parents continuing the fight, negative opinions of step-parents, etc).

As an aside, in NJ both parents are expected to contribute to the financial needs of the children, so how much has to be paid for college isn’t just an issue for the NCP who has to pay child support, but is also an issue for the CP. So conceivably the child and the NCP can agree that child should go to Harvard, and it could be CP doesn’t want to pay more than the state tuition and can be arguing for Rutgers or a school with a big scholarship.

About whether I think there can’t be any circumstances where a parent making more than 250k/year and refuses to pay tuition is a deadbeat…well, of course there can be circumstances, but I’d think they would be pretty rare and should be looked at carefully. So, for instance, maybe the student is out of control and shouldn’t be in school, or maybe there are other exigent needs for the money like a sibling with outrageous medical costs. But I think the far more usual reason is that the broken relation between the parents results in one of the parents not being as financially committed to the child than he/she would be if that relationship were intact.

I wouldn’t classify money for college as a “financial need” of a child, in the legal sense. Money for food, shelter, clothing, medical care, yes. Higher education, no. And these legal obligations extend to minor children only, because I don’t think a parent has a legal duty to provide food, shelter, etc. to an able-bodied adult child.

@BelknapPoint your viewpoint isn’t the law in NJ.

It’s not the law in NJ, it’s a few cases. I don’t think there have been any appeals and the legislature hasn’t acted. I wouldn’t rely on getting college paid for based on a few cases. It’s good for negotiating during the divorce, but not rock solid Judges change, the stock market changes, the next set of facts could be different.

There was the case of the high school girl going to live with her friend’s family (above), but that was to pay for catholic high school (and she wanted her car, etc.) I think in the end there was an agreement reached and she went to American College in Springfield Ma, but only for a short time. There was another case where the parents (divorced but were in agreement that THIS kid had blown her chances for tuition) were paying for community college or instate college, the kid went on the Disney College program and they paid for that but she dropped out, and then came home and wanted to go to Temple (OOS tuition) and then moved in with her grandparents and the grandparents wanted the money. Again, the court said they had to pay but not a blank check. Oh, I think the girl didn’t stay at Temple.

If you’re correct (and I have my doubts), then I find it interesting that in New Jersey a parent has a legal responsibility to pay the college expenses of an adult child, but the same responsibility does not apply to food, shelter and clothes. Those are wacky priorities.

Is OP from NJ? I missed that.

This is one anecdote.

I have a very good guy friend who is divorced with 2 daughters. He lives in PA and the ex with daughters live in NY. It was an ugly divorce, but he always paid child support/alimony and plus whatever his daughters needed (clothes, cars, etc). He was not an absentee father either. He saw his daughters regularly, but the mother was the custodian parent.

When his daughter got into a top tier school last year, he refused to share his financial information with the school because he didn’t want his ex to see it. He also knew if he disclosed his financial information to the school then his daughter wouldn’t be eligible for any FA anyway (he made over 300K), so why bother. Of course, his ex and the daughter were very upset with him. They applied for FA without any of my friend’s information. The daughter ended up with COA of 20K. My friend is paying 20K instead of 70K for his daughter to attend CMU.

I don’t think colleges will discount your dad’s income. You know where he is and he provides financial support. Post #39 is exactly the reason why colleges should look very closely at families who ask for a NCP waiver and be reluctant to grant them.

A lot of kids are in the difficult position of having stats that are solid enough to get them into a school that their parents can’t afford. What they do is search for the schools that they can. For most kids, that’s the local commuter school or cc.

Your stats seem high enough that residential college is a real possibility. You can take the ~$5500/year federal student loan, and if you work summers you can probably earn another ~$3k/year. That gives you ~$8k to start. Look for merit aid to bridge the gap between what you have and the cost of attendance. If your parents can’t/won’t pay anything then I don’t think your affordable options will be ~$60k/year colleges, but there are a lot of great choices that don’t cost that much. Find some and add them to your list.

A different post from the OP indicates that the OP is in New Jersey.

Newburgh v Arrigo is a NJ Supreme Court case, and has not been overturned by the state legislature, and as such it is the law of the land in NJ. What this case does is set out 12 factors to weigh when looking at a parent’s obligation to pay for college (or not). The other cases I mentioned are lower court cases that help give some further definition to the factors set out in Newburgh.

NJ child support law (housing, food, clothes) by statute says that as long as the “child” is not emancipated, child support goes to age 19, and that if the “child” is between the ages of 19 and 23 and is in school full time continued child support may be sought through the court system. If the parties had reached another agreement as part of their property settlement agreement in their divorce, their agreement would govern.

Bottom line, all I am saying here is that the OP MAY have a case against his father to require his father to pay for his college. The fact that the father makes over 250k per year, absent unknown circumstances, to me shows that there is a good possibility that the OP could win. If OP’s father made under 50k, I’d say to not even bother looking into this.

The problem with going after the father is timing. The timing issue could be alleviated if OP applies EA or if OP takes a gap year. The other significant problem is the emotional turmoil and time for the OP, as well as whether OP can get an attorney to take this on for him. In this case, where there is such an income disparity between the parents, I could imagine the court requiring the father to pay OP’s attorney if the court thinks OP had a good case.

All I am saying is that OP may have these options open to him and might want to consult with a NJ family law attorney. NJ law does try to watch out for the interest of the child and ensure that a child of divorce or out of wedlock is treated the same as he/she would have been had the parents remained married.