Can a parent get out of paying college expenses after divorce?

by Jeralyn Lawrence, Family Law Attorney, Lawrence Law

In the recent Appellate Division case of M.F.W. v. G.O., the court upheld the lower court’s order requiring the father to contribute to his daughter’s college costs.

The court, on motion, allocated the daughter’s college expenses 70/30 and declined to hold a hearing on the issue, finding that there were no issues of material facts warranting a trial. Accordingly, the court allocated the respective obligations.

The parties’ divorce agreement clearly and specifically provided that they would pay for their daughter’s college. Their agreement did have a relatively standard clause that obligated the daughter to apply for all loans and financial aid. The court held that clause repugnant and refused to enforce it, reasoning that if it did, the daughter could get loans to pay 100% of college costs, which would release the parties from their agreement to pay. This concept was unacceptable to the court.

In seeking to enforce the parents’ commitment to pay for college and to protect the child from being burdened by loans to which she did not consent, the court held that college would be paid 70/30 by the parties. This case is refreshing in that the court actually decided on the motion, but only did so because there was enough evidence. By declining to order a protracted and prolonged trial to address a fairly straightforward issue, it saved the parties a significant amount of time, stress and expenses.

If you have questions about this post or any other family law or matrimonial matter, please contact me at .

Jeralyn Lawrence is a family law attorney with Lawrence Law in Watchung. She also serves as Second Vice President of the New Jersey State Bar Association (slated to become President in 2022), is the Past Chair of the Family Law Section of the NJSBA, and serves as Second Vice-President of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. She can be reached at or (908) 645-1000.

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