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Extended support for education in a divorce agreement

Traditionally, child support extends until children reach the age of 18. Georgia residents might know that parents may decide to assist their children pay for higher education. This decision to support their child's education may be part of a divorce agreement detailing provisions for payment.

A decision in a New Jersey appellate court focuses on the language and the contractual boundaries of the agreement. In this case, parents divorced after the children reached the age of emancipation. They included a detailed agreement outlining how they would each contribute 50 percent of the cost of their daughter's postgraduate education. Nothing in the agreement specified what institution the daughter chose or the total cost associated with it. However, the agreement did note the daughter needed to maintain C grades and provide her father with information concerning financial aid, course curriculum and grades.

The daughter chose a prestigious institution with a yearly cost of about $75,000. Her father refused to abide by the original agreement and petitioned the court to make changes. He claimed he had experienced a significant financial change in status and was unable to pay more than $7,500 per year. He asked the court to lower the amount he was ordered to pay. In addition, he said he was willing to pay the lower amount if his daughter attended a school he chose and lived with her mother.

A lower court denied his request and the appellate court agreed. It was noted the father placed none of the current restrictions in the original agreement. Also, he failed to prove his financial circumstances had changed. If he had accomplished this, the agreement might have been modified.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Divorce Settlements and Higher Education", Brad Reid, March 13, 2014

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