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Child Support and Private School Tuition

By Peter Van Aulen, Esq.

Private School Tuition is Handled as a Discretionary Supplemental Expense

A divorce for most families is a huge financial disturbance. Many families just financially make it before a divorce when there is one household. Then after the family splits in two the family now has to pay for two households. One of the expenses that gets questioned or objected to is the cost for private school. The Appendix IX-A to R.5:6A states that private and parochial school tuition are not included in the child support schedules and may be handled as a supplemental expense.

If Private School is a Desire for a Child Try to Provide for the Same in the Divorce Settlement

It is best that if one party desires to send their child to private school the parties discuss and negotiate that issue and have the marital settlement agreement contain a provision for the same during the divorce process. This way the parties do not have to battle the issue in an expensive post judgment motion. However, often the private school is not an issue at the time of the divorce either because of the children’s ages or the parties are happy with the child’s school at the time of the divorce.

Factors to be Used in Determining Whether a Parent Should Contribute to the Cost of Private School

The Court in Hoefers v. Jones, 288 N.J. Super. 590 (Ch. Div. 1994) established a standard of review to determine whether a non-custodial parent has to contribute to a child’s elementary and secondary private school tuition. Said Court stated a Judge should consider the following factors:

  • The non custodial parent’s ability to pay.
  • One or both parents past enrollment at that or a similar school.
  • If the child was going to a private school pre or post-divorce.
  • Any prior agreement by the non-custodial parent to pay or attend a private school.
  • The parties and the child’s religious background.
  • Whether the private school meets any special educational, psychological and/or special needs of the child.
  • Is it in the child’s best interest to attend or continue to attend the private school?
  • Whether an agreement or a Court Order grant the custodial parent the right of school choice.
  • Whether the actions of the custodial parent to enroll or to continue to enroll the child are reasonable.
  • Whether private school tuition is allowed as part of the child support guidelines.
  • Whether the child will benefit from the private school education.
  • Whether the non-custodial parent has been involved in the child’s education.
  • Whether the views and desires of the custodial parent are consistent with past practices regarding the child’s private school education.

As seen from the above factors, the issue of whether a non-custodial parent has to contribute to the cost of private school is very fact sensitive. I often tell my clients that it has to be financially feasible to send or continue to send your child to private school; otherwise the Court will not force the objecting parent to contribute to the same. If you are facing the issue of contribution to private school tuition, call me today at 201-845-7400 for a initial consultation.

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