Any motion for college contribution should be filed before your child starts college. This is a “no brainer.” In the recent seminal case of Gac v. Gac, 186 N.J. 535 (2006), the noncustodial parent was not consulted as to the selection of a college, or as to how the tuition and room and board for college would be paid for. The noncustodial parent, only sought sought reimbursement after the child had graduated from college. The New Jersey Supreme Court held that at the very least, the noncustodial parent must have notice before the expenses to pay for college are incurred.
Any college contribution motion should be filed immediately once the child has received his acceptance letters and any financial aid award. I strongly suggest that any motion for college contribution should be filed in January or February before the child graduates from high school. For all practical purposes, any college contribution motion should be filed no later than the beginning of May. By the month of May, even if the child has not received all of his acceptance letters, the custodial parent should have the majority of the information necessary to submit a complete college contribution motion.
The courts almost always will allow the submission of additional information as it becomes available. For example, a child may have been accepted to college as of January 1. However, he will not receive his financial aid package until a much later date. Once the financial aid package becomes, then this information can be presented by way of a supplemental certification, or exchanged during discovery.
It is a major mistake to wait until the summer such as until July or August to file your motion. If you file your motion too late, then there is a very good chance that your child may not be able to attend his first class because the motion has not been ruled on yet. Moreover, keep in mind that the courts are slower in the summer. Most judges take their vacations in the summer. There is a strong tendency that motions drag on in the summer time because of the judge’s and opposing lawyers vacation schedules. In summary, the timing of filing a college contribution motion is of critical importance. If you file it too late, then your child may miss the first semester of his college. Thus, he may wind up going to Middlesex County Community College or any other local community college.