College Expenses and Child Support: A Short Guide
After a divorce, parents have a legal duty to support their children. Thus, it is common during divorce proceedings for one parent to be required to pay child support until a child is emancipated, or self-supporting. But with the majority of teenagers going from high school to college instead of straight into the workforce, how does child support work then? Here’s a short guide to child support and college in New Jersey.
Child Support and New Jersey Law
In most states, a child is considered emancipated when they reach the age of maturity, which is 18. After the child’s 18 birthday the parent’s financial obligations legally ceases to exist. Sometimes there are exceptional circumstances like overwhelming medical costs, or the child is disabled in some way and support needs to continue. But in most places, child support ends at 18.
New Jersey is different. State law here regards higher education as an important necessity in every child’s development. Thus, if a child is pursuing a college degree (or a license/certification at a vocational school) they are not legally considered emancipated. If this is the case, the court can order the parent to continue paying child support until age 23.
That doesn’t mean that every parent will have this situation, though. Every case is different. The judge will review all the facts of each case to determine if continued financial support is a necessity. He or she will consider the ability of the parent to pay, the financial resources of each parent, the amount the child needs for post-secondary education, and whether the child can earn any money during that period or the amount in scholarship funds and student loans they will have available to them. In addition to these, a judge will also consider the relationship between the child and the parent paying child support. Are the two close? Does the parent share in the child’s aspirations and providing support and guidance to them? These are more subjective factors that are considered on a case by case basis.
Planning for the Future
If you and your ex attempt to tackle this when a child is ready to attend college, it could quickly turn into a complicated litigious mess that will end up being expensive for all parties involved. Rather, you could set out a possible plan for paying for college at the time of divorce. You could start a college fund and set out a legal agreement in the divorce paperwork that outlines how each parent will contribute to it. Seeking the help of an experienced New Jersey family lawyer is important to help you consider all the issues and make sure every possible outcome is addressed.
Contact A Family Law Attorney for a Consultation About Your Divorce in New Jersey Today!
If you are thinking about filing for divorce, or if you have already started the divorce process and are dealing with another matter such as child custody, child support, or property division, you need to speak with a qualified attorney. Lois Garber Schwartz is an experienced family law attorney and represents clients throughout South New Jersey. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we will fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at 856-482-8799 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. Our office is conveniently located at 1040 Kings Highway North, Suite 202, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.