Black v. Black, Trial Court Decision, Approved for Publication June 13, 2014: The trial court considered whether a parent, who had previously agreed to contribute towards the costs of college education of his child, could be relieved of that obligation and considered the difference between state and private costs and the eventual obligations for younger children in assessing the ultimate responsibility for payment of college expenses. The trial court made the following holdings:
1. When there is a damaged relationship between a college-age student and a parent, the court may order the student to attend joint counseling with the parent as a condition of the student receiving ongoing financial assistance from that parent for college tuition, so long as there is no compelling reason to keep the parent and student physically apart.
2. The option of attending college at a state college or a private college, at substantially less cost than the student’s school of first preference, is a relevant issue for the court’s consideration. The Appellate Division’s reported opinion in Finger v. Zenn, 335 N.J. Super. 438 (App. Div.2000) does not hold to the contrary.
3. While the Supreme Court case of Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529 (1982) sets forth a list of factors for a court to consider on the issue of college contribution, a case may present additional equitable factors for consideration as well. One such additional factor is whether the student has younger siblings of relatively close age who are also likely to attend college in the near future. In such circumstance, there may be a need for implementation of a reasonable financial plan which fairly allocates present and future contemplated funding resources among all of the parties’ children, rather than exhausting such resources primarily or exclusively on the oldest child who happens to be first in line for college.