S.B. v. J.R. (Supreme Court – Monroe County)

In a separation stipulation, in regards to the financing of college expenses for the parties’ children, the parties agreed for “each [to] pay and contribute to the best of their then ability.” Such an obligation would be “net of any financial aid of any kind or nature that the children may receive” and would include “grants [or] whatever financial aid each child may receive.” Pursuant to this agreement, the parties failed to reach an agreement in interpreting and allocating each parties’ respective share of the college expenses. Because the husband’s second wife works for a college, as part of her benefits, she elected to have the husband’s son to obtain tuition-free college education. The husband argues that the tuition free credit covers the entirety of his contribution and therefore, the remaining costs (i.e. room and board, books, and fees) remain the sole responsibility of the ex-wife.

Because the parties are bound by the stipulation, the Court focused its efforts on the interpretation of the agreement and concluded that the stipulation did not permit the husband to use the tuition benefit as a credit against his share of college expenses. Instead, the parties each remain liable, according to their current ability, for any college costs not covered by the tuition benefit.