College Contribution Requirement in Divorce and Failure to Supply Financial Documentation

Royster v. Royster

Docket No. A-2715-18T3

Decided July 20, 2020

Submitted by New Jersey Alimony Law Firm, Hark and Hark.

In a recent unpublished decision the Appellate Division reviewed a trial judge decision denying defendant’s motion to end his college contribution requirement for failure of plaintiff to supply the financial documentation, and required him to pay a portion of plaintiff’s counsel fees.

In Fiore, Defendant Scott R. Royster, Sr., married plaintiff, Victoria Harvey, formerly known as Victoria Royster, in 1993. The final judgment of divorce (JOD) entered in April 2009 recognized the parties’ “verbal [a]greement,” which was reduced to writing and annexed to and incorporated into the JOD. The agreement provided for defendant to pay child support on behalf of the parties’ only child, a son, and share all post-high school education expenses equally with plaintiff. The agreement also defined emancipation as the parties’ son “[r]eaching the age of eighteen years or the completion of four continuous academic years of college education, whichever last occurs[,]” or, if he married.

In August 2018, defendant filed a motion to terminate child support and declare the parties’ son emancipated as of May 17, 2018, the purported day he completed four continuous years of college education at Kean University. Defendant also sought to be relieved of certain provisions in a March 2015 order that set his support arrears and also required defendant to “personally obtain[] information and documentation pertaining to [the parties’ son’s] financial aid, scholarships, and student loans[.]” The March 2015 order also required plaintiff to furnish financial information regarding personal loans she obtained to defray the college costs if the “information [was] not personally accessible to [defendant.]”

Defendant argued plaintiff failed to provide financial documentation for the son’s college.  Plaintiff did not oppose emancipation but argued the date was to be when the son graduated, and to compel defendant to pay full amount until that time.

The January 16, 2019 order that resulted (the January 2019 order) granted defendant’s motion to declare the parties’ son emancipated as of July 28, 2018, the date plaintiff asserted, terminated defendant’s child support obligations as of that date, and granted him credit for any payments made after that date. The judge denied defendant’s motion to reconsider the March 2015 order, which included a provision that added more than $14,000 to defendant’s child support arrears as reimbursement to plaintiff for a loan she used to pay college expenses. The judge also granted plaintiff’s request that defendant reimburse her more than $56,000, representing his share of college expenses. The judge then subtracted the amount previously ordered as arrears minus actual payments defendant made, for a total of $43,904 in additional arrears. In addition, the order required defendant to purchase $75,000 in life insurance to secure his support arrears obligations. The order also enforced a prior counsel fee award of $1500 entered against defendant in the March 2015 order and provided for an additional $2000 award of counsel fees “associated with th[e] motion[.]”

Defendant appealed and the Appellate Division affirmed for substantially the same reasons.

Most family matters are resolved with agreements including custody agreements, visitation schedules, alimony and child support amounts, property settlement agreements (PSAs), Matrimonial Settlement Agreements (MSAs) and civil restraints.  The agreements, especially PSA and MSA, can be reviewed years later, and are upheld with the exception of significantly changed circumstances or unconscionability.  Therefore, you have to make sure that the agreement is in your best interests.  Make sure you hire an attorney that guide you , protect you, while getting you the best result possible.

At Hark & Hark, we help clients with prenups, divorce, custody, domestic violence, child support, alimony issues and more.

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Michael J. Collis, Esquire

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Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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