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Changes May Come to College Tuition Laws for Divorced Parents

A recent trial court decision compelling divorced parents to pay for their daughter's college tuition has caught the attention of lawmakers in the New Jersey. The daughter, 21, decided to attend Temple University after attending community college for a period of time. She currently resides with her paternal grandparents, and, according to the parents, has very little to do with her parents. The parents claim that they had no role in the school selection process and that they cannot afford to pay the $16,000 sum that the trial court ordered them to pay. 

Each parent has remarried and has younger children via their second marriages. The parents have maintained the position that New Jersey unfairly treats divorced couples on the issue of college expenses as courts normally do not interfere with decisions made by married couples when it comes to college decisions/finances.

A legislative bill is now expected to be introduced that would bar courts from handling college-funding decisions differently for divorced and married parents. New Jersey has a long standing and well established precedent of compelling divorced parents to pay for their children's postsecondary education, if they have the ability to do so. The precedent is grounded in the principal that a child's opportunity to attend college should not be inhibited by the fact that his/her parents divorced. If the courts are not permitted to compel divorced parents to pay for their children's college expenses, it is unclear at this time what alternative the legislation will provide to insure that divorced children receive financial support from their parents.

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