Years after their divorce, a couple is back in court to figure out what is meant by the term “respective means”, used during their divorce, reports the July 13, 2012 edition of The New York Law Journal. Rochester County judge, Justice Dollinger was surprised at the lack of legal interpretation of the phrase “respective means.” The Justice stated that “New York’s Family Court Act mentions it however no other statute speaks of it, nor is there case history to follow.”

The Justice ruled that it did not mean that either party would have to take out funds from their retirement plan or borrow money, in order for their children to afford college. Asking to borrow or dipping into the fund, seems to go farther then respective means.

Also, the Justice did not adopt the Rohrs method, which would mean that the father’s child support payments decrease to make up for what he paid for the children’s education.

The parents’ contract stated that they would make all decisions together in terms of educational finances and options; however the Mother went through with letting the oldest son go to Penn State and later just demanded the money from the father. The court ruled that the father would not be responsible for the first year of his son’s education, as he did not have a part in making that decision.

The court wants to make sure that the father does not avoid his obligation to pay, as he agreed to many years ago, however the court would not have either parent sacrifice their retirement savings or the means of their current spouses.

The judge urged the parents to sit down and talk things out amongst them. He claimed that with better communication, there would not have been need for the couple to come to court. “A frank discussion with both children about what the parents can collectively afford, one that would  have taken place had the couple not divorced, might change the children’s expectations” about college.

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