On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County, Docket No. FM-02-422-01.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Sapp-Peterson and Ashrafi.
Plaintiff Scott Caridi appeals from a June 8, 2010 order of the Family Part requiring that he pay one half the expenses for his daughters' private high school and college education, and an August 9, 2010 order denying his motion for reconsideration. We reverse and remand for a plenary hearing.
The parties were married in 1990 and divorced in 2003. They have two daughters, born in 1991 and 1996. At the time of divorce, they entered into a comprehensive marital settlement agreement, which designates defendant Michelle Copland (formerly Caridi) as the parent of primary residence and sets a parenting time schedule for plaintiff Scott Caridi. In addition to fixing the amount of child support and defining the circumstances under which the children would be emancipated, the agreement addresses the children's private school tuition through the eighth grade, summer camp expenses, and future college costs. It does not contain any provision for payment of private high school expenses.
As to elementary and middle school, Article IV, paragraph
4.1, of the agreement states in full: The parties acknowledge that their two
children currently attend Holy Family School in Norwood, New Jersey. The parties acknowledge that it is their intention to have both of their children continue to attend Holy Family School through 8th grade. Husband shall be fully responsible for all private school educational expenses payable to Holy Family School in Norwood, New Jersey. In the event a change of schools is necessary for any reason, the parties shall attempt to agree upon the selection of a new school and the payment of school expenses.
Article VIII of the agreement addresses sharing of future college expenses:
8.1 Both parties agree and acknowledge that it is their intention to make all efforts to have the two children born of the marriage afforded the opportunity to attend a college or university in accordance with their desires and capabilities. The parties also acknowledge that the[y] each have an obligation to contribute to the college education expenses of the children. The parties' respective financial contributions toward their children's college education shall be addressed at the time each child is prepared to enroll in college, taking into consideration the parties' respective incomes and abilities to contribute to such college expenses, and after applying for all available financial aid, grants, loans, scholarships, etc.
Paragraph 8.2 of the same article states that the parties shall cooperate in the selection of colleges for their children and shall not unreasonably withhold consent.
Caridi paid the private school expenses of both daughters through the eighth grade directly to Holy Family School. The older daughter attended high school from 2006 through 2010 at Holy Angels Academy, a private school. Copland paid more than half her high school tuition and expenses. Caridi made two direct payments to Holy Angels Academy, $4,800 in August 2006 and $5,000 in July 2007. After the older daughter's second year of high school, Caridi did not make any further payments.
In May 2010, the older daughter was accepted for college at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Copland filed a motion to compel Caridi to pay the balance of one-half her high school tuition, and also to pay two-thirds of her college expenses. Her motion also sought payment by Caridi of one-half the expenses of the younger daughter for private secondary school tuition at Holy Angels Academy, which she was about to enter as a freshman the following fall. Caridi filed opposition to Copland's motion, contending that he had never agreed to pay for private high school expenses, that he was willing to pay a fair share of the older daughter's college expenses, and that his financial circumstances had changed significantly from the time of the marriage and divorce such that he could not afford to pay the sums sought by Copland. He stated he was now ...