On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Burlington County, Docket No. FM-03-199-03-Z.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Fuentes and Simonelli.
Plaintiff Rita Engelke appeals from that part of the September 23, 2009 Family Part order requiring the parties' daughter to apply for and accept all college scholarships, grants and loans available to her and to accept a Stafford loan, and reducing defendant Kevin Engelke's child support obligation. We affirm in part, reverse in part and remand for further proceedings.
The parties were married on June 18, 1983. Two children were born of the marriage, a son, Ryan, born in 1989, and a daughter, Kristin, born in 1991. Ryan attends Clemson University and Kristin attends Quinnipiac University. Both children live on campus during the school year. During the summer, they live with defendant's mother in Seaside Park and work full time.
The court entered a final judgment of divorce on May 19, 2004 (JOD), which incorporated the parties' marital settlement agreement (MSA). As to child support, the JOD provides that:
Defendant will pay child support to plaintiff in an amount calculated under the Child Support Guidelines....
It is further specifically agreed that the amount of child support to be paid by one parent to the other at the time of a child's enrollment in college shall be discussed and negotiated by the parties prior to the child's enrollment in college, taking into consideration the respective incomes and assets of the parties; the child's assets and income, if any; the respective contributions being made by each party to the child's college education expenses; and the extent to which the child resides with each parent when not physically at the college or university.
As to the children's college expenses, the JOD provides that:
It is specifically acknowledged by the parties that each accepts an obligation to contribute to their children's college education expenses, taking into consideration, at the time each child is preparing to enroll in college, the respective income and assets of the parties and the child. The parties agree to consult with the goal of adopting a harmonious policy concerning the college education of the children. Accordingly, when each child is preparing to apply to college, the parties shall confer in an effort to reach an agreement in advance regarding the choice of an appropriate college, consistent with the family's means and the child's means, abilities and preference. The parties and the child shall make application for all available scholarships, financial aid and loans. The parties will then agree upon the payment for the balance owed for the college costs. Any disputes shall be resolved by a court of competent jurisdiction upon application properly made. (Emphasis added.)
Ryan was accepted to Clemson beginning in the fall of 2008. In August 2008, defendant filed a motion seeking to establish that he, plaintiff and Ryan would each contribute to one-third of Ryan's college expenses, with Ryan's contribution derived from scholarships he had obtained and a $5500 Stafford loan. Defendant also sought to reduce child support from $248 weekly to $154 weekly based on changed circumstances, i.e. that both children were ...