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How Parental College Contributions Affect Child Support

Helping your child attend college and receive an education that can aid them in becoming productive and contributing members to society is an important part of parenthood. By law, parents have an obligation to contribute to their child’s education, and those obligations can be enforced in child support orders. However, when a child reaches adult age and attends college, parents have many questions about whether their financial needs, including room, board, and tuition, would apply to child support. Although it may come as a surprise, it generally does not.

Over the years, New Jersey courts have grappled with the concept of parental obligations when it comes to college. In important cases handled by the courts, the issue often centered on the fact that while divorced parents may have been legally obligated to contribute to college, intact parents had no such obligation. In one landmark case, Black v. Black, the court ultimately ruled that no parent should be expected or required to contribute to their child’s college education more than he or she can reasonably afford.

New Jersey child support guidelines are fairly clear about what constitutes support and what doesn't. The fact is this: if a child isn't living under the physical custody of a parent, the other parent would then typically not be required to provide tuition costs and other expenses related to college. Likewise, a student can't file a complaint and say that his or her father or mother isn't keeping up with the child support payments – which would go to his or her tuition and other costs – because it's a plain fact that the child isn't living under the support of either parent (technically). That child is now living independently. Alone. And responsible.

It is important to note that child support orders can still apply and be sent to the custodial parent, particulary if one parent has the financial means and an arragement has been made. It's stipulated, though, that the funds from child support wouldn't necessarily be attributed to the costs of college unless decided upon by the custodial parent in such a hypothetical case. Payments for child support, however, are typically not directly attributed to college costs, room and board, especially directly to the child(ren) in college. Our blog - Who is responsible for college tuition? - covers more on this subject.

As with any family law matter, every situation is different. If you have questsions about child support, education, and any other issues, contact our New Jersey family lawyers at Moskowitz Law Group.