As many parents with children who have gone through a divorce or had a child out of wedlock have come to realize, child support is an obligation that demands compliance through payment of an amount certain from one parent to the other, usually, although not always, on a weekly basis. Most parents can also be under the impression that once their child reaches the age of majority, that child will be automatically emancipated, meaning that as such; there will no longer be a responsibility for continual payment of child support. While this may in fact be true in other states, it is not necessarily so in New Jersey.
For most matters, the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines will be used to calculate the amount of the child support payment. The guidelines are an income based worksheet that determines the weekly amount of child support that the “payor” parent will be required to pay. These guidelines were developed to provide the court with economic information to assist in the establishment and modification of fair and adequate child support awards. The premise of these Guidelines is that (1) child support is a continuous duty of both parents, (2) children are entitled to share in the current income of both parents, and (3) children should not be the economic victims of divorce or out-of-wedlock birth. These Guidelines are found in Appendix IX of the New Jersey Court Rules, which can be located and further explored at the following address: http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/csguide/index.htm.
Child Support Obligations
The obligation to pay child support may seem straightforward at first glance, but the reality is that, as with seemingly every other facet of law, there are certain exceptions that require the payment of child support to continue past a child’s 18th birthday and even after high school graduation. So what happens if a child decides to continue his or her education on either a part-time or full-time basis after reaching the age of majority? Does child support continue? Is the payment amount altered? The answer is yes and no depending on the circumstances of the child’s educational pursuit as well as other factors.
As stated above, an exception to emancipation can occur if the child is over the age of 18 and attending college or some other form of post-secondary education. The child support guidelines may no longer apply if a child goes away to college. This is because there are identical, or overlapping, expenses between the guidelines and the costs associated with a child’s attendance at college. You can read further detail of these “Duplicate Expenditures” at the above-listed link, specifically Paragraph 18. Listed duplicate expenses include room and board as well as transportation. However, just because the Guidelines no longer apply, that does not mean the responsibility to pay child support will terminate, it simply means it will be calculated in a manner different than the Guidelines.
Most significant for child support litigants (different from college tuition disputes) with college children is the case of Jacoby v. Jacoby, which was decided in July of 2011 and held that when a child leaves for college, while that may technically establish a change in circumstances that permits a review of child support, there is still not a presumption that the required amount of support payment lessens because of that. Jacoby went on to clarify that instead of relying on the Guidelines, judges are to weigh the factors set forth in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23a. Conversely, if the child attends a local school and continues to live at home and commute to class, the court does have the discretion to apply the Guidelines when determining support if they should deem it appropriate considering the circumstances.
Contact the New Jersey Child Support Lawyers at Lyons & Associates
The important thing to realize is that there are different factors that can contribute to upward or downward modification of your child support payment once your child enrolls in some sort of post-secondary education, and as such you may be entitled to a modification of any support amount you are receiving or paying. Please contact us online or call our office at 908-575-9777 to schedule an appointment if you think you may be entitled to either of the above.
Written by: William P. Lemega, Esq.