Electronic Discovery Changing the Judicial Landscape for Assessing a Parent’s Obligation to Contribute Towards their Child’s College Costs

Under New Jersey law, the court considers an extensive list of factors prior to determining whether continued financial support or contribution from a non-custodial parent for the costs associated with their child attending college is appropriate. (Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529, 1982). For example, New Jersey courts take into account whether the non-custodial parent, if still living with the child, would have contributed towards the costs of the requested higher education. Also, courts consider the effect of the background, values and goals of the parent on the reasonableness of the expectation of the child for higher education. Furthermore, courts look at the parent’s ability to pay, the requested amount of contribution sought by the child, the commitment to and aptitude of the child for the requested education, and even the financial resources of that child. Similarly, the court considers the child’s relationship to the paying parent, including mutual affection and shared goals as well as responsiveness to parental advice and guidance. Finally, the court considers the relationship of the education requested to any prior training and to the overall long-range goals of the child. Each of these aforementioned factors impacts the court’s decision in regards to a parent’s obligation to contribute for their child’s higher education costs.

The availability and ease of acquiring personal, relevant information pertaining to their case via such social media outlets has drastically expanded, providing the involved parties with better opportunities to prove their case. Although social media itself is not quite a novel legal issue, the manner in which social media ties into the courts particular determinations about the above-mentioned factors provides an interesting basis for discussion.

Applying this principle to these previously discussed factors, it becomes evident that electronic discovery provides parties with multiple avenues to substantiate their claims. For example, a child’s transcriptions on ‘facebook’ may serve as a valuable indication of his or her “commitment to and aptitude of the child for the requested education.” Similarly, a child’s statements made on ‘twitter,’ or perhaps their photos, could demonstrate “the financial resources of the child.” This is merely a brief overview of the many possible ways in which social media outlets have expanded parties’ opportunities to impact the court’s analysis of each of these factors used to determine the appropriateness of ordering non-custodial parents to contribute to their child’s higher education costs.

Author: Daniel Burns

As Managing Editor of the Rutgers Computer and Technology Law Journal , Daniel's main responsibility is to shepherd both the notes and articles through the entire editorial and production process and transform the edited notes and articles into final formatted versions that will appear in the published editions of our Journal. In addition, Daniel serves as a liaison between our Journal and our publisher, which requires addressing problems that undoubtedly arise during the production process. Last summer, he interned for the Honorable John E. Selser, Superior Court Judge in Passaic County, Family Part. Currently, Daniel works as a law clerk at King & Patracca and is the Research Assistant for Professor Suzanne Kim, who specializes in Family Law and Gender Studies. In his free time, Daniel enjoys producing short films, snowboarding, hiking, and listening to The Beatles.

1 thought on “Electronic Discovery Changing the Judicial Landscape for Assessing a Parent’s Obligation to Contribute Towards their Child’s College Costs”

  1. As social media becomes an increasingly important evidentiary tool, courts would be wise to attribute more weight to the factor that measures “commitment to and aptitude of the child for the requested education.” Today, much collegiate energy is spent taking and posting pictures of one’s self (“selfies”), friends, and colleagues participating in keg stands, blunt rides, and conducting flabongoes in various locales and often compromising poses. A court confronting such evidence could hardly avoid the determination that such purported students are objectively idiots and do not warrant continued parental support, be it custodial or non.

    Indeed, based on such social media evidence, I would advocate increased judicial authority to order equitable relief in the form of, for example, forced military service, deportation, and a revival of the use of chain gangs for public works projects. Enjoining less-than-fully “committed” or “apt” students to perform these kinds of services surely would provide a greater societal benefit than the societal drag and generational lethargy that currently results from the meandering and extended college careers parents may be forced to support.

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