Reprinted by Permission – American Bar Association Journal
A Rutgers University history professor will have to pick up half the cost of his daughter’s education at Cornell Law School, which will cost him about $112,500, according to a New Jersey appeals court.
James Livingston is required to pick up the tab because of terms in his divorce settlement agreement, according to a decision (PDF) last month by the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division. The New Jersey Star-Ledger and the National Law Journal (sub. req.) have stories.
The divorce agreement said Livingston would pay half the expenses for his daughter’s post-college higher education, according to the opinion. The agreement also said the daughter would provide Livingston with a copy of her class schedule, grades and financial aid information within five days of receiving them. Both Livingston and his ex-wife were not obligated to make any financial contribution, however, if the daughter did not maintain a C grade point average.
Livingston initially offered to pay $7,500 a year for his daughter’s legal education, provided that she attend Rutgers Law School, live at home with her mother, and provide him with progress reports, according to the opinion. He claimed his daughter should have informed him of financial aid offers from other law schools, and he should have been allowed to jointly decide with his daughter which law school she would attend. He also argued that his continued estrangement from his daughter was a changed circumstance that relieved him of his obligation.
The appeals panel rejected those arguments. A frequently used provision in divorce settlements gives fathers the right to participate in school selection, but Livingston’s agreement didn’t have such a clause, the court said. The court also pointed out that Livingston was already estranged from his daughter when he entered into the divorce agreement.
“If a relationship and a voice in the planning and selection of a school were his expectations,” the court said, “such terms could and should have been included in the agreement. They were not.”