New Jersey Case Law Update: College Contribution

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Caruso v. Whitlock

Docket No. A-2244-11T2

Overview

Defendant appeals an order requiring him to contribute to the college expenses of his daughter. Remanded for further consideration.

Facts

  • The child was born in 1993. Defendant’s child support obligation as $81 per week in 2010 based upon Defendant’s $475 gross weekly income and Plaintiff’s $1020 gross weekly income. In June of 2011, an order was granted for Defendant to pay 27% of unreimbursed medical expenses. The Plaintiff later filed for an order for Defendant to contribute to college expenses and to bring his arrears current.
  • Daughter went to Rider, Defendant had no input into this decision. Daughter received minimal grants and took out loans. Plaintiff took out a loan. Plaintiff asserted Defendant has no relationship with his daughter. Whitlock testified he is not involved in his daughter’s life, it is Plaitniff’s fault, he was in favor of her going to college, she considered RU but went to Rider because it was smaller, the daughter owned 2 cars, had received an $8000 settlement from an accident and Defendant’s wife had recently returned to work.
  • Based on this, the court ordered Defendant to pay 27% of net college expenses. His obligation would be $3430 for the fall semester.

Issue

The judge failed to make adequate findings of fact, and failed to consider the Newburgh factors.

Holding

The judge did not cite the Newburgh Factors, but the court is satisfied that the judge had those factors in mind when she rendered her decision. However, remand is required to further consider the factors on a fuller record. The court also concluded that the record does not reflect sufficient analysis of Defendant’s ability to pay for his daughter’s net college expenses in light of his financial situation. Further the judge did not take into account that the daughter chose a private school over a public school. The judge could have used the public school tuition or used a lower % for Rider tuition or make his payments over a longer period of time, or a combination.  See Finger v. Zinn, 335 N.J. Super. 438, 444-45 (App. Div. 2000),certify. Denied, 167 N.J. 633 (2001). Additionally, the judge did not consider the daughter’s ability to earn money while at college. Finally, the judge did not resolve the issue of the long term estrangement between father and daughter. Gac v. Gac, 186 N.J. 535, 546-47 (2006).

 

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