Divorced dad ordered to pay half of 26-year old child's ivy league law school tuition

Discussion in 'Up to the Minute' started by JerseyGirl, Mar 7, 2014.

  1. JerseyGirl

    JerseyGirl Moderator Staff Member Forum Coordinators

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    Divorced father ordered to pay HALF his daughter's $225,000 Ivy League law school tuition after SHE cut contact with him 5 years ago

    [Dad] was told to pay $112,500 so that his daughter, can attend Cornell Law School. The law school tuition is only a few thousand dollars short of Mr Livingston's annual salary of $123,500

    She is 26 years old, already graduated from 1 college and then waits 3 years, gets a job, then decides to go to law school.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/art...chool-expenses-despite-pairs-falling-out.html

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/nat...d-daughter-law-school-judge-article-1.1713573
     
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  3. jjenny

    jjenny Well-Known Member

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    Sounds like he agreed to it during the divorce.
     
  4. Bark

    Bark New Member

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    That sounds pretty rough. I was under the impression that most students who made it to the Ivy Leagues usually got scholarships from the University itself.
     
  5. al66pine

    al66pine New Member

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    As noted above, from dailymail, appears that during 2009 divorce proceedings, Dad agreed to pay half of law school exp.and signed to thqat effect.

    I wonder if he was rep'ed by counsel,
    or if it was Do It Yourself, on his part?

    If he was rep'ed by counsel, seems like the agreement
    would have had some time limits and $$ caps on it.

    A link to the old divorce filings or this lawsuit's doc's would be enlightening.

    Any legal professionals here in the house now?

    JM2cts and I could be wrong.
     
  6. nrdsb4

    nrdsb4 Active Member

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    I don't know about law school, but for undergrad, Ivy League schools give no academic or athletic scholarships. They give very generous financial aid for people who qualify, but it is all need based, not merit.
     
  7. JerseyGirl

    JerseyGirl Moderator Staff Member Forum Coordinators

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    . Around the time of the divorce, the daughter stopped speaking to him.

    Three years later, she was accepted to Cornell Law School. The cost of tuition, books and living expenses for school totaled $74,580 per year. The father offered to contribute $7,500 per year for her to attend Rutgers Law School where she could continue to live at home. She didn’t discuss her choice with her father and chose Cornell.

    A lawsuit was raised to force him to honor the provision in the divorce decree requiring that he pay half of the expenses. Livingston, of course, disagrees, saying that it was unfair for him to pay for school. He argued that she waited too long after his divorce — and her college graduation — to apply to law school and that they had agreed that she would start law school within a year or so after graduation. He also felt that he should have been involved in the decision making process and that the fact that he had no communication with her should alleviate his obligation to pay for her continuing education.

    The court disagreed and ruled that Livingston had to pay his share, or just over $112,000.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyph...-payments-expenses-are-they-still-dependents/
     
  8. SapphireSteel

    SapphireSteel New Member

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    I was warned of this by my own lawyer.

    The age of "childhood" has been unofficially raised due to Gen Y.

    These kidults are dragging their childhood out to their late 20s and the Courts are saying they're still children too.

    Remember the Olden Days, you were an Adult at 18?

    Not any more. Now its 30. :(
     
  9. al66pine

    al66pine New Member

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    It appears (I won't ASSume) at the time of divorce,
    that Dad signed doc (contract w Mom) agreeing to pay for half of dau's law school exp.

    Was there no time limit or $$$ cap in the doc?
    Is that poor drafting on atty's pt?
    Seems strange to me, if he was rep'ed by counsel.

    The other half? Do we have enough info to know that Mom was ready to pony up half?
    Maybe dau was to secure loans, scholarships & self pay for half or some portion, and Mom was notobligated to pay any $. IDK.
    Unless Mom was independently wealthy at time of divorce, omitting time limit & $ caps in the contract
    could also have been less than stellar drafting on her behalf.

    So appears to be a contract action, and ct is merely enforcing a contract.

    JM2cts and I could be wrong.
     
  10. al66pine

    al66pine New Member

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  11. al66pine

    al66pine New Member

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    Link to Appellate Ct opn:
    http://law.justia.com/cases/new-jersey/appellate-division-unpublished/2014/a1770-12.html

    As happens commonly, MSM glossed over some important details.
    Not agreeing or disagreeing w app ct opn, just that MSM headlines & story spin it hard to sound outrageous.

    I wondered about whether dad was rep'ed by legal counsel re divorce and drafting the doc.

    Snipped from App ct, BBM:
    "With the assistance of their attorneys, the parties negotiated a detailed Divorce Settlement Agreement and executed it on November 10, 2009. The agreement was incorporated into their divorce judgment of the same date. The agreement required neither party to pay alimony or child support. Both children were declared to be emancipated."

    "5. The parties' daughter, [J.], graduated from college in or about May 2009 and it is presently contemplated that she will take a brief hiatus (1-2 years) before enrolling in graduate school or law school. [J.] is presently employed full-time at . . . . The parties agree that [J.] is emancipated at this time. If [J.] does attend graduate school or law school, either party may bring an application seeking to find that [J.] is unemancipated based upon the case law at that time.

    "The agreement also addressed the expenses of the daughter's anticipated post-graduate education. Paragraph 7 stated:
    "7. Notwithstanding [J.]'s emancipation, the parties agree that they shall each have an obligation to contribute towards [J.]'s post-college higher education costs defined as tuition, room and board, books and school fees. The WIFE shall pay fifty (50%) percent and the HUSBAND shall pay fifty (50%) percent of all the costs after application of scholarships and grants. [J.] shall provide the HUSBAND with a copy of her class schedule, grades, and financial aid information within five (5) days of her receipt of same. If [J.] fails to maintain a C grade point average, the HUSBAND and WIFE shall have no obligation to make any contribution toward her education."

    "The [trial] judge calculated father's total obligation over three years of law school would amount to approximately $112,500. He allowed father to fulfill that obligation in installments by agreeing to become the primary obligor for one half of the daughter's educational loans, or to reimburse mother periodically his one-half share as she paid other amounts when due."

    Main basis in app ct affirming trial ct decision for Dad to pay:
    "Father was estranged from his daughter at the time that he entered into the divorce agreement and agreed to be responsible for half her post-graduate expenses. If a relationship and a voice in the planning and selection of a school were his expectations, such terms could and should have been included in the agreement. They were not."

    The opn is enlightening.
     
  12. Tugela

    Tugela New Member

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    It sounds like both husband and wife have to contribute equally. 40k per year at 50 % means that her annual costs are 80k.....does it really cost that much to go to law school?

    Emancipation is not relevant in this case, since it was specifically excluded as a consideration.

    J has to provide the father with copies of school related things, such as grades and scholarships, within 5 days of her receiving the information, so she has to at least make period contact with him. She also has to maintain at least a C grade. So if she is not academically successful, she can be cut off.

    One other thing, if you are obligating a parent to pay for your education, the moral thing to do would be to at least speak to them and consult them. If you want to cut ties, you should cut the purse strings as well, otherwise you are no better than a parasite.
     
  13. lawstudent

    lawstudent New Member

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    Law school is that expensive if it's a good one - including associated costs, which are probably an apartment, textbooks, flying to interviews, etc.

    I didn't know that a divorce settlement could obligate someone to another adult - does the case law in that state suggest that if she goes to school she becomes the parents' dependent and so responsibility attaches? It always confuses me when divorce settlements or child support agreements require a parent to pay an adult child's college costs. Yes, it is unfortunate if a parent decides to bail on a kid's education out of spite towards the divorce, but no parents are obligated to pay for college.

    But if that's what the settlement says, then he signed it. I mean, if he didn't know what it meant, then he should have thought it out more. He had to know law school is expensive. And he should also know that the daughter not talking to him does not alter the contract. If he wanted to condition financial support on her respect towards him, he shouldn't have agreed to such a contract.

    Also, I'm so done with the media completely failing to report relevant facts and legal analysis. The stories end up not making any sense and yet people still get outraged over a perceived wrong that hasn't even been explained.
     
  14. al66pine

    al66pine New Member

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    Reading app ct opn at http://law.justia.com/cases/new-jers.../a1770-12.html may help answer your Qs.

    Re BBM 1 & 2, snipped from my last post:
    " . . . The parties agree that [J.] is emancipated at this time. If [J.] does attend graduate school or law school, either party may bring an application seeking to find that [J.] is unemancipated based upon the case law at that time."
    Hmmmm. did trial ct opn discuss case law? Maybe I need to re-read.

    Re BBM 3 & 4:
    Exactly.

    Re BBM 5, media failing to report relevant info & analysis.
    Ditto, Amen. You said it, lawstudent.

    JM2cts and I may be wrong.
     
  15. Tugela

    Tugela New Member

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    If I read it correctly, they waived any other sort of spousal/child support, and the post graduate support was put specifically in, so that must have been part of their settlement.

    He probably did not have a problem paying for her education, but likely expected to be consulted on it, and for there to at least been some reasonable compromise made when it came to choice of school and actual cost. And the fact the she apparently stopped talking to him at about the time of the divorce sounds suspiciously like they were civil to him until he signed a commitment, then refused to have anything more to do with him. Under the circumstances he might be feeling used, and that could explain the pushback.
     
  16. Elley Mae

    Elley Mae The enemy is here. beware

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  17. al66pine

    al66pine New Member

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    snipped for focus

    IIRC, he is/was a professor at Rutgers(?) and dau went there for undergrad work, presumably w faculty-family discount.
    Maybe he ASSumed she would continue there in law school or grad school, w reduced tuition.

    If Dad had wanted -
    - input in school selection,
    - to cap his contrib at, say $15,000 or $40,000/yr, (makes me dizzy!),
    - to cap his contrib to same $ amt as he would pay w faculty discount no matter which school she attended,
    to limit the years of exposure to, say, 5 yrs post-divorce,
    the doc could have specified any or all of those things but did not.

    Ideally his atty discussed these questions w him. Maybe not, IDK.
     
  18. jjenny

    jjenny Well-Known Member

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    If her father had expectations of what school she would go, and by what age, that should have been specified in a divorce agreement. And since it was not specified, he is going to pay for the school of her choice. Since apparently, during the divorce, he agreed to pay for whatever school she would attend.
     
  19. tlcya

    tlcya Well-Known Member

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    Just your simple contract dispute. People need to really be aware of and ask questions about what they are signing.

    The agreement, drafted and negotiated by both sets of attorneys, was signed by both parents and made part of the divorce degree.

    Da has buyers remorse. It happens. But I think the court ruled properly based on the fact that dad agreed to it back in 09.
     
  20. lawstudent

    lawstudent New Member

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    I'm sure your analysis of how he feels is correct, although I don't know that they necessarily manipulated him - we don't know what happened in the interim. I'm just saying that regardless, he signed the contract. You don't get to stop child support or alimony because your ex/kids aren't behaving as you wish, or not pay debts because the lender screwed you over. What is morally right in someone's eyes and legally required often differ, as everyone has his or her own take on things.

    But my point is, a divorce settlement can't make you owe money to someone else besides your ex, can it? They could have put in a clause that if the daughter went to law school, the wife wanted to pay and he would have to reimburse her for half of it. Or he could have a separate contract with the daughter (although it's more difficult because she'd have to do something in return). But he can't make a contract with his daughter through is divorce settlement, only with his wife.

    However, the key seems to be that NJ law treats her as possibly unemancipated if she returns to school and becomes financially dependent on her parents. I'd have to know more about the law - I can't imagine it's quite that easy. So possibly the clause said he had to finance education of the wife's dependents? It just seems weird to me. You can agree to provide so much in alimony, taking into account other people the wife has to support, but you don't agree directly to support other people. Usually only child support is so flexible, when the child is a minor.
     
  21. al66pine

    al66pine New Member

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    Their settlement agreement declares at time of divorce, dau is emancipated and employed full time,
    but states, if she enrolls in law school, either party may seek fiinding that she is unemancipated, per case law at that time.*

    Did app ct opn discuss whether whether dau was unemancipated? If so, I missed it.

    Someone said - unemancipated status is like virginity: once you lose it, you can't get it back. LOL :blushing:
    Apparently you can, at least in NJ.

    JM2cts and I may be wrong.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    * Appellate Ct opn: http://law.justia.com/cases/new-jers.../a1770-12.html
    "With the assistance of their attorneys, the parties negotiated a detailed Divorce Settlement Agreement and executed it on November 10, 2009. The agreement was incorporated into their divorce judgment of the same date. The agreement required neither party to pay alimony or child support. Both children were declared to be emancipated."

    "5. The parties' daughter, [J.], graduated from college in or about May 2009 and it is presently contemplated that she will take a brief hiatus (1-2 years) before enrolling in graduate school or law school. [J.] is presently employed full-time at . . . . The parties agree that [J.] is emancipated at this time.If [J.] does attend graduate school or law school, either party may bring an application seeking to find that [J.] is unemancipated based upon the case law at that time." BBM & SBM
     

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