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Joseph
Joseph, Family Law Attorney
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 7279
Experience:  I have over a decade of experience as a Family Law litigator
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I am divorced and have a daughter in college. Divorce agreement

Customer Question

I am divorced and have a daughter in college. Divorce agreement states that her father will pay one-half of SUNY (State University of New York) tuition. My daughter attends SUNY Geneseo.

I applied for federal student aid (FAFSA) and received a grant of $2500 per semester. My former husband subtracted that amount from the tuition and paid half of the remainder. Eg: let's say tuition is $9000. Half if $4500. He subtracted the 2500 from 9000 (7500) and is paying $3200 instead of $4500.
I maintain that he is not honoring the child support agreement because he is not paying half of SUNY tuition. The grant is need-based and he is depriving me of grant money intended for my benefit based on my income.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  Joseph replied 3 years ago.

Hello and thanks for choosing Just Answer®. I am a licensed attorney, and I will be glad to try and assist you.

 

To provide you with accurate information, could you please clarify these points so I can best address your inquiry:

 

  • Can you provide the exact language from the divorce agreement?

 

Once I hear back from you, I will be glad to let you know my answer. There may be some delay as I am assisting other customers or am away from my computer. Please rest assured, however, that I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
In addition to all child support payments and benefits above, the husband agrees to pay for 50% of the child's college expenses up to child's 22nd birthday or eight semesters of full time college attendance, whichever occurs sooner, provided the child continues to attend an accredited college on a full time basis. Subject to the limitations below, such expenses shall include all school fees, all tuition costs, books, school supplies, uniforms, reasonable transportation between home and school, necessary tutoring or extra or specialized instruction. The husband's responsibility for tutoring or specialized instruction shall not exceed $500 per year.

However, the husband's obligations to pay such college expenses shall be limited to the amount of such expenses had the child attended SUNY at Stonybrook provided Stonybrook has not been privatized and to the extent the expenses are generally similar to those charged by other comparable schools within the SUNY system. Each parent shall be free to use any savings or college funds he or she has accumulated to pay his or her respective college expense obligations.
Expert:  Joseph replied 3 years ago.

With that language, there is no clear cut answer to your question.

 

The first move here is yours. You have a choice here, do nothing and stipulate to him paying the lower amount or take him back to court to try to get the court to order him to pay the full 1/2.

 

If you file the motion, the court will need to make the determination as to the appropriate result. Your former husband's argument would be simple, he is paying 1/2 of the net cost. Your argument would be that the agreement is for him to pay 1/2 of the actual cost of the college. In support of your argument, you would point to the language of "ALL school fees" as meaning ALL fees, not subtracting out any grants.

 

Candidly, I would suggest that this is a very close call and it would be impossible to predict with any accuracy what the judge would do with these facts.

 

I hope you found my answer helpful. If so, please click on the green ACCEPT for my answer. This is necessary for me to be paid for my work and so that I can get credit for assisting you. Your question will not close, and you will still have the opportunity to follow-up if needed. Leaving a bonus and positive feedback is not required, but doing so is certainly appreciated! Thank you and good luck!

 

Also, several customers have asked how they may direct a question to me in particular. If you specifically want me to assist you in your legal matter, just put "FOR JOSEPH" in the subject line and I will gladly pick up the question as soon as I am on-line.

Expert:  Joseph replied 3 years ago.

I am going off-line for the evening. Please feel free to respond, if necessary, and know that I will be back on-line tomorrow.

 

Thank you for your patience.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
The intent of the FAFSA Tuition Assistance Program is to benefit the applicant who demonstartes financial need. Is there some legal precedent/basis, eg., contract law, intent of the law, that would support my position?
Expert:  Joseph replied 3 years ago.

Not to my knowledge. To err on the side of caution, I researched the issue a bit, and, unfortunately, didn't locate anything. Part of the problem, I would suggest, is that these are two very separate and distinct areas of the law, that being tuition assistance and divorce. In other words, there isn't anything obvious that would address both.

 

As I suggested earlier, this is one of those situations where it will be at the discretion of the court as to how to rule. In the absence of clear language in your divorce agreement, the judge has the legal authority to rule either way.

 

If you think this is worth fighting over, then file a motion and bring the matter before the judge. If it isn't worth the hassle to you, then I suppose you should forget about it. There's no "wrong" answer here, it's a matter of what makes the most sense to you.

 

I hope you found my answer helpful. If so, please click on the green ACCEPT for my answer. This is necessary for me to be paid for my work and so that I can get credit for assisting you. Your question will not close, and you will still have the opportunity to follow-up if needed. Leaving a bonus and positive feedback is not required, but doing so is certainly appreciated! Thank you and good luck!

 

Also, several customers have asked how they may direct a question to me in particular. If you specifically want me to assist you in your legal matter, just put "FOR JOSEPH" in the subject line and I will gladly pick up the question as soon as I am on-line.

Joseph, Family Law Attorney
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 7279
Experience: I have over a decade of experience as a Family Law litigator
Joseph and 7 other Family Law Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  Joseph replied 3 years ago.

I am going off-line for the evening. Please feel free to respond, if necessary, and know that I will be back on-line tomorrow.

 

Thank you for your patience.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
How do I know if I have grounds for an upward modification of child support? What documentation do I need?
Thanks,
Elizabeth
Expert:  Joseph replied 3 years ago.

Welcome back! While I am glad to see you return to Just Answer after apparently having been away for over two months, my general practice is to not take on new questions from customers that did not compensate me for earlier answers. You asked several earlier questions to which I provided thorough responses. To date, you have not clicked the "accept" so that I might be compensated. I will gladly move forward with you on the new question if you would click on the "accept" for the earlier responses first.

 

Alternatively, of course, you can list this as a new question and seek the assistance of a different attorney.

 

I thank you for your courtesies in this matter and I wish you the best of luck either way!

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
You may not have received notification yet but I did accept.
Thanks,
Elizabeth
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
How do I know if I have grounds for an upward modification of child support? What documentation do I need?
Thanks,
Elizabeth
Expert:  Joseph replied 3 years ago.
Thank you for the "accept", it is greatly appreciated. Give me a moment and I'll start working on your new question.
Expert:  Joseph replied 3 years ago.

A modification of child support, whether up or down, would be based on a substantial change in circumstances. For example, if the father was making significantly more money and/or you were making less money. Other examples of a substantial change could include the aging of the children, the custodial arrangement changing (spending less time with the paying parent), unusual medical needs of the child and the like.

 

As to what you would need for documentation, it would depend greatly on the allegations of change. For example, if you were claiming that his income had increased significantly, you would want to obtain his financial records. This would include his pays tubs, tax returns and supporting documents, credit card statements and banking statements. You would be able to obtain all of these as the litigation progressed.

 

If anything requires clarification and/or follow-up, please let me know.

 

I hope you found my answer helpful. If so, please click on the green ACCEPT for my answer. This is necessary for me to be paid for my work and so that I can get credit for assisting you. Even if you are a subscription member, you will need to click ACCEPT. Your question will not close, and you will still have the opportunity to follow-up if needed. Leaving a bonus and positive feedback is not required, but doing so is certainly appreciated! Thank you and good luck!

 

Also, several customers have asked how they may direct a question to me in particular. If you specifically want me to assist you in your legal matter, just put "FOR JOSEPH" in the subject line and I will gladly pick up the question as soon as I am on-line.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
okay, thank you.

I am considering going to family court and pursuing this on my own. I am still at issue with the previous question I posed to you re: my daughter's tuition and my FAFSA grant so the issues for court would be:
1) upward modification of child support
2) enforcement of divorce agreement meaning payment of 1/2 tuition as stipulated by divorce agreement.

Of course I don't have access to his income info. but he is a retired New York City teacher receiving a pension. Is this part of public record?
Also, you mentioned an increase in his income but what if my income has decreased substantially since the divorce agreement...is this a consideration?
Thanks.

Expert:  Joseph replied 3 years ago.

New York child support calculations do take into consideration the income of the receiving spouse as well. So yes, a decrease in your income could be the basis of a modification of the support obligation. One caveat to that, the decrease should not be a voluntary decrease. For example, you wouldn't be able to seek a modification if the basis for the modification was that you quit your job. Conversely, if you were a victim of the bad economy, that might lead to a modification.

 

As to his income, as well as any other financial information, while you might not "have access" at this time, you would once you filed for the modification. Once that occurred, you would have the lawful ability to request whatever records you needed.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
I was just thinking that if NYC teachers' pension is public information, I would have some idea of whether I would have a case. My income has definitely decreased over the past two years. Is social security considered in determing child support or is it exempt?
Thanks,
Elizabeth
Expert:  Joseph replied 3 years ago.
You're correct, his pension is public information. Here's a link to a story on just that, it also contains a search option to look up a specific person; http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/05/15/business/pension.html. That should give you his annual income from his pension. And yes, social security counts as income as well.

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