Emancipation of child to be based on statutory and Newburgh’s factors

William J. Parrish, Jr., appealed from post-judgment Family Part order that denied his motion to emancipate his then 21 year-old child, ordered the parties to cooperate with a parenting coordinator and abide by her recommendations, and directed them to "return" to a psychologist for updated psychological evaluations for themselves as well as their two younger children, who were then 13 and 12 years old. Parish v. Kluger, Docket No. A-0485-14T2, 2016 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 581 (March 17, 2016).

The Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division explained that the evaluation for emancipation must consider issues such as the child's need, interests, and independent resources, the family's reasonable expectations, and the parties' financial ability, among other things. Even though parents are not generally required to support a child over 18 years of age, his or her enrollment in a full-time educational program is illustrative of a requirement for continued support, that is further guided by the factors set forth in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(a).

Additionally, parents who are well off may be required to contribute to the higher education of children who are qualified students. For this, the Supreme Court has laid down certain non-exhaustive factors to be considered by a parent for contribution of the child’s higher education from the other parent, such as: (1) whether the parent, if still living with the child, would have contributed toward the costs of the requested higher education; (2) the effect of the background, values and goals of the parent on the reasonableness of the expectation of the child for higher education; (3) the amount of the contribution sought by the child for the cost of higher education; (4) the ability of the parent to pay that cost; (5) the relationship of the requested contribution to the kind of school or course of study sought by the child; (6) the financial resources of both parents; (7) the commitment to and aptitude of the child for the requested education; (8) the financial resources of the child; (9) the ability of the child to earn income during the school year or on vacation; (10) the availability of financial aid in the form of college grants and loans; (11) the child's relationship to the paying parent; and (12) the relationship of the education requested to any prior training and to the overall long-range goals of the child. (citing Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529, 545 (1982)).

It is upon the trial court’s substantial discretion to balance the statutory criteria of N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(a) and the Newburgh factors, as well as any other relevant circumstances, to reach a fair and just decision to determine parental obligations for dependent students.

However, trial court’s findings herein appeared to be unsubstantiated. The judge’s statement of reasons also did not include any analysis of the statute or the Newburgh factors. For these reasons, the Superior court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. Also, the trial court's statement of reasons did not adequately explain its decisions.

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