When your ex won’t pay college obligations

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Q. My ex-husband doesn’t want to pay his half of college as our divorce agreement says he must. What can I do?
— Divorced

A. You have some work ahead of you.

To enforce the terms of a marital settlement agreement, commonly called a divorce agreement, or any order entered by the court, you must file a “Motion to Enforce Litigant’s Rights,” said Ken White, a certified matrimonial attorney with Shane and White in Edison.

He said in the motion, you will seek any and all relief you may want the court to address.

White said if you are filing a motion to secure your ex’s contribution for college expenses, you can and should also seek any other relief you are entitled to as the time. The expense of the motion will probably be the same whether you are addressing one issue or 10 issues.

White said motions are generally heard every other Friday by the family courts in New Jersey, and your motion package must be filed with the court and served upon your ex at least 24 days prior to the proposed hearing date.

“A motion package must include a notice of motion, proposed form of order, certification — your statement of reasons with supporting documentation — and an affidavit of service,” White said.

While you may file such papers without an attorney, White advises you to hire someone to help you from the start of the process so you can do it all correctly. Otherwise, it could be 10 times harder and more costly if you make errors and then later have to hire an attorney to correct any mistakes you may have made, he said.

On your specific issue of getting your ex to pay college contributions, White said it’s very important for you and your child to keep your ex in the loop.

“To the best of your ability your ex should be included in the decision making process,” White said. “He should be provided with documentation confirming all the potential costs and expenses before the same are incurred, and your child should maintain a relationship with him (absent exceptional circumstances).”

This is important, White said, because of two cases: Gac v. Gac and Black v. Black. White said these provide parents such as your ex with potential defenses to being held responsible to contribute to the satisfaction of his child’s college expenses if certain fundamentals are not met.

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This post was first published in May 2016.

NJMoneyHelp.com presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.