Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.

Do I Have To Pay Child Support If My Child Attends Graduate School?

Maybe.  In regards to continued support towards graduate school in New Jersey, the child support lawyers at my law firm understand that the continuing education of a child may result in a court deciding that the child is not emancipated and has a right to continued support. Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529, 543-44 (1982). The 1988 amendment to the child support statute L. 1988, c. 153, § 3, also stated that child support may be awarded for continuing post-secondary education. N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(a)(5) (referencing the “[n]eed and capacity of the child for education, including higher education,” as one of many factors relating to the duration of child support.)  Following is a complete attorney analysis regarding this controversial issue.

In Ross v. Ross, a trial court ordered the continuation of child support for a child attending graduate school. 167 N.J. Super 441, 443 (1979). Furthermore, in Newburgh the Supreme Court of New Jersey stated that in certain circumstances, parental duty extends to providing child “of a college and even a postgraduate education such as law school.” Newburgh, 88 N.J. at 544. 

The New Jersey Legislature has never fixed a date or event upon which a parent’s child support obligation terminates. Rather, the question of emancipation is a fact specific inquiry. Dolce v. Dolce, 383 N.J. Super 11, 17 (App. Div. 2006). Reaching the age of maturity merely establishes a prima facie proof of emancipation, not a conclusive one. N.J.S.A. 9:17B-3. The continuing education of a child may result a court deciding that the child is not emancipated and has a right to continued support. Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529, 543-44 (1982). The 1988 amendment to the child support statute L. 1988, c. 153, § 3, also stated that child support can be awarded for continuing post-secondary education. N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(a)(5) (referencing the “[n]eed and capacity of the child for education, including higher education,” as one of many factors relating to the duration of child support.) 

Emancipation happens when the “fundamental dependent relationship between parent and child is concluded.” Filippone v. Lee, 304 N.J. Super 301, 308 (1997). This is always a fact-specific inquiry, and the vital question is whether the child has moved “beyond the sphere of influence and responsibility exercised by a parent and obtained an independent status of his or her own.” Bishop v. Bishop, 287 N.J. Super 593, 598. (1995). 

Most of the cases I found dealing with the continuation of child support or colleges expense have been for college degrees, except for two. In Ross v. Ross, a trial court ordered the continuation of child support for a child attending graduate school. 167 N.J. Super 441, 443 (1979). The daughter was commuting to Seton Hall Law School from her mother’s house. She had planned on becoming a lawyer when she started college, and her father had known of those plans and approved of them. The judge held that she was not emancipated despite the fact that she had graduated from college, and continued the father’s child support obligation. Id. at 445-48. Furthermore, in Newburgh the Supreme Court of New Jersey stated that in certain circumstances, parental duty extends to providing child “of a college and even a postgraduate education such as law school.” Newburgh, 88 N.J. at 544. 

According to the Newburgh factors, courts should consider: whether the parent would have assisted in college expenses had there have been no divorce; the background, values, goals of the parent; the amount of assistance requested by the child; the parents ability to pay; the relationship of the contribution to the field of study sought by the child; financial resources of both parents; the child’s commitment to higher education; the child’s own financial resources; the child’s ability to work during college; financial aid availability; the child’s relationship to the paying parent; and the relationship between the education requested and the long term goals of the child. 

If you have a child support issue in New Jersey, please contact our law firm today.