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Court Rejects Order Forcing Parents to Pay Tuition

February 13, 2017
 
 

A recent New Jersey appeals court decision may help parents navigate the legal requirements of contributing to their children’s college tuition payments, The Courier-Post reported.

Until the ruling last Thursday, a divorced couple in New Jersey had been required to help with their emancipated daughter’s college tuition. But the three-judge panel threw out a previous ruling and ordered a new hearing for the case.

When she was 21, the couple’s daughter, Caitlyn Ricci, was emancipated from her parents. At that point, she had not lived with either of her parents for more than two years -- Ricci had been staying with her grandparents instead.

New Jersey state law says parents don’t have to assist with college tuition if a child is emancipated, but in 2013, a few months after she became legally independent from her mother and father, a Superior Court judge allowed Ricci to challenge that order. Her parents were forced to pay about $2,000 for Ricci’s education at Gloucester County College.

Those required costs went up dramatically when Ricci transferred to Temple University in Philadelphia the following year.

The ruling last week said a new judge should examine the events that led up to Ricci’s emancipation from her parents before making a decision about the case. One of the attorneys said that if Ricci wants financial support from her parents, she should also be open to her parents' guidance and counseling. By accepting legal independence from her parents, she was accepting financial independence as well, the ruling said.

Ricci “demonstrated her desire to be independent of parental control, which obviated any obligation for support,” the 43-page decision said.

Although it ordered a new hearing, the three-judge panel also asked the family to consider ending the court battle now, as “the chasm between parents and child surely will widen whatever the outcome” of a continued legal fight.

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