Court Orders Saratoga County Father to Pay 50% of Daughter’s Tuition By Gordon, Tepper, DeCoursey on March 23, 2020

The Third Department Appellate Division, in Susko v. Susko, found that the Father had willfully violated the terms of the parties’ separation agreement pertaining to college expenses and also imputed additional income to him when determining his share of the college expenses.

The parties had entered into a separation agreement which contained a commonly used clause stating that the Mother and Father would both to contribute to the costs of each child's college education to the extent of their financial ability upon their consent to the chosen college, which consent was not to be unreasonably withheld. The father sought to avoid his obligation by never giving express consent to his daughter’s college choice. He responded to the Mother’s repeated requests for consent with evasive answers. But, because the Mother had kept the Father informed about the colleges the daughter was considering, where the daughter had been accepted, and the costs and financial aid award for each school, and because the Father never voiced any objections to the chosen school, helped complete financial aid documents and even paid $450 toward the initial deposit, the Court ruled that he had, in fact, consented to the chosen college.

After contributing $450 to the initial deposit, the Father made no further payments toward the cost of the daughter’s college education. The Court found that the Father’s failure to pay any meaningful amount of the college expenses, despite an ability to do so, was a willful violation of the parties’ separation agreement. When determining the Father’s appropriate share of college expenses, the Court noted that the Father had failed to comply with the Mother’s trial subpoena of his business records; that the Father had declared greater income on a recent mortgage application than was reported on his income tax returns; and had worked substantial overtime right up to the week that the Mother filed her petition for support.

As a final note, the Father’s request that a portion of his child support payments be credited against his tuition obligation was denied. The Court pointed out that even when the daughter was at college, the mother remained obliged to maintain a household for the child and to cover other expenses that do not abate during the college year, such as clothing, supplies and the child's car insurance.

If you have questions about your spouse’s obligation to share in the college costs for your children, you can speak with the attorneys at Gordon, Tepper & DeCoursey, LLP.

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