As a New Jersey Child Support Attorney, I am aware that New Jersey is the only one in the Union that does not have an age limit for emancipation of a minor child. Furthermore, New Jersey child support continues even once the children attend college. New Jersey is also one of only six states that mandates that the parents must help pay for college for their children. This all means that how child support is dealt with once a child is off to college is a paramount issue for this New Jersey Family Lawyer. Let’s explore.
Prior to college, a vast majority of divorced parents have their child support obligation determined pursuant to New Jersey’s Child Support Guidelines. This is primarily based upon each parties respective incomes, along with some other factors such as credits for regularly scheduled parenting time, medical insurance and day care. The amount is non-negotiable (unless a parent is willing to pay more than the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines call for).
This issue was addressed in the case of Jacoby v. Jacoby, 427 N.J. Super. 109 (App. Div. 2012). Here, the court had to address the issue of whether child support payments should be lowered when a child chose to live on campus while at college. The defendant father sought to have his child support payments reduced when his younger child enrolled in college and chose to live on campus. However, this prompted the plaintiff mother to file suit because she felt that child support payments should be increased in this time. The court held that the trial judge was supposed to “compute the applicable support necessary to provide for the parties’ children, taking into account that the children reside on campus and participate in a school sponsored housing and meal plan.” Id at 120.
Furthermore, the court cited the case of Hudson v. Hudson, 315 N.J. Super. 577 (App. Div. 1998) stating that “the payment of college costs differs from the payment of child support for a college student.” The court held that the defendant father’s argument was flawed; just because his child was living on campus should not affect his child support payments—the child still needed expenses to be paid in other areas associated with going to school away from home.
Since no definitive rule was established after the decision in Jacoby, this issue remains red-hot in my field. I will continue to keep you all posted on any updates on the topic.
Now, many New Jersey divorce agreements contain language that the parties have agreed to. An example would be, “the parties shall only be responsible for contribution towards college if the child attends school for four (4) consecutive years and maintain at least a B average.” Recently, media hyped a recent case where the father had to help pay for law school and continue to pay child support. However, both parents had already agreed in their divorce settlement to pay for it. (I hate when the media twists facts, but I digress).
All told, New Jersey child support laws are extremely complicated once the children are off to college. If you or a loved one is confronting this issue, please contact my office to discuss your situation. Thank you.