Whether it is Cancun, Miami, or Las Vegas college students from across the country will be flocking to popular vacation destinations in the next upcoming weeks for the coveted spring break vacation, but who pays for that trip especially when the student’s parents are divorced?
A college education is viewed as a necessity and New Jersey Courts have especially taken the position that in divorced or unmarried, but not intact families, parents must contribute towards college costs for their children. The leading case in New Jersey, Newburg v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529 (1982) held that parents, whether married or divorced, have a duty to provide an education to children, which extends to a college education. It has also been established that in contributing towards your child’s education, college costs include not only tuition but also food, books, school supplies, room and board, and the like. Parents in New Jersey have an obligation to contribute towards their child’s college education if they are financially able to do so and more likely than not a Court will order parents to contribute. But what about providing your children monies for “fun” activities? Will a Court order you to pay for your child to spend a week under the sun? (Spoiler alert: probably not… but there could be exceptions)
Many parents, in addition to contributing towards college costs, give their children spending money for fun activities as college is not only about gaining an education, but growing as a young adult and creating lifelong friends and unforgettable memories. Although a Court will take into consideration the fact that the college student needs funds to live off of it is unlikely a Court will order a parent to pay for their child to enjoy bottomless margaritas in Punta Cana. But what if your child’s spring break wish is to travel to Sri Lanka to help renovate historic temples or the Philippines to volunteer with children rescued from the Tacloban City dumpsite? Will a Court then order a parent to pay? Perhaps, maybe, but still unlikely. Spring break trips although now seen as a requirement for college students are not viewed as a necessity to the Court, even if your child wishes to volunteer their time for a good cause. New Jersey Courts have only recently opined that parents should contribute towards their college student’s study abroad program, where a student lives in another country and takes college classes in that country and earns college credits. One can justify contributing towards their child’s study abroad since they are still earning college credits. Still, spring break is far from studying abroad.
Although this week of fun is treated as a can’t miss college experience by many college students he/she may have to look elsewhere for the funds to travel. Parents, you may be off the hook on this one. Maybe.
Kimberly Greenfield, Esq is an Associate Attorney at Adinolfi, Molotsky, Burick & Falkenstein, P.A.. She focuses her practice on all aspects of divorce and family law.