“A divorced parent funding a child’s college education can demand the student’s academic records as a condition of payment, a state court judge says in a case of first impression. A court order requiring an adult, unemancipated student to show proof of college attendance, credits and grades as a condition does not violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, Ocean County Superior Court Judge Lawrence Jones ruled in a case approved for publication on April 15. “A child who demands financial contribution from her parents logically has a reciprocal obligation to provide basic information concerning college attendance and performance,” Jones wrote in Van Brunt v. Van Brunt, FM-15-091-08. He called the situation “wholly unacceptable and violative” of the rights of the father who was obligated to pay college expenses.” (N.J. Law Journal Summary)
The Court’s holding:
“The court concludes the following: (a) an order requiring a student to produce proof of college attendance, course credits and grades as a condition for ongoing child support and college contribution does not violate the student’s rights to privacy under FERPA; (b) both the student and the custodial parent each have a responsibility and obligation to make certain that the non-custodial parent is provided with ongoing proof of the student’s college enrollment, course credits and grades.”
The Court ordered:
a. Melissa has an obligation to provide documentation of her college attendance and performance to her parents if she wishes to remain unemancipated.
b. Plaintiff has a direct, affirmative ongoing obligation to obtain the documented information from Melissa and to forward same to defendant within the time period set forth under prior court order. The court will not accept plaintiff’s position that she cannot obtain this information from Melissa as a defense. If plaintiff truly cannot obtain such information from Melissa, then plaintiff shall have the obligation to expressly notify so that he can file a motion for emancipation.
c. So long as Melissa remains unemancipated, plaintiff shall provide defendant within thirty days after the start of each college semester with documented verification of the courses which Melissa is taking and the number of credits per course. Additionally, plaintiff shall provide defendant, within thirty days of the conclusion of each semester, a copy of Melissa’s report card.
Should plaintiff and Melissa fail to comply, defendant may file a new application for Melissa’s emancipation.”
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