If you're a parent who is paying child support, you're probably aware that child support terminates at 19 unless the child can show that he or she is not fully emancipated. For example, most children who are attending college still depend on their parents for college cost contributions. Along with tuition, college costs may include school supplies, furniture, clothing and phone/data plans, just to name a few. In addition, most students come home during breaks, at which time they accrue day-to-day living expenses. Hence, many parents find themselves needing to pay both child support and college contributions even past the age of 19. However, can a parent ask for a reduction in child support if the child plans to live on campus? If so, their college contributions go towards the child's day-to-day living expenses for much of the year. Paying full child support on top of this seems unreasonable to most parents, especially if they're older and headed towards retirement.
The answer to whether they can request a modification is yes. However, there is no presumption that child support should be terminated or modified just because a child is headed for college, in state or otherwise. The confusion may stem from the fact that a modification request needs to be based on a qualifying change in circumstance. Attending college is one of these changes in circumstance, so that means a modification should be approved, right? Unfortunately, changes in circumstance only get you as far as asking for a modification. There is never an automatic presumption of support termination or modification, since there are many reasons for why a certain amount of support needs to continue.
One possible reason is that one set of expenses may be replaced by another. If a child attends an out-of-state college, he or she may need to find an off campus apartment. If so, there are many costs associated with renting and living on one's own. These costs may necessitate the full amount of support until the child is able to contribute towards these expenses. On the other hand, the courts may lower child support based on the parent's income and the amount they're contributing strictly towards college costs. In short, there's a lot of individual factors that must be considered, which is why the courts cannot rely on the standard New Jersey Child Support Guidelines. That means trial courts have to be very thorough in their rulings for why they approved or rejected a modification request. Parents must also be thorough in their explanations for why support should be reduced. It's highly recommended that parents work with an experienced attorney who can help them calculate specific costs for both college and day-to-day expenses. Unless you can show compelling reasons through facts and numbers, the courts are unlikely to consider your case, given their strong inclination for supporting the needs of college age children. For more information on child support for college bound children, please speak with the attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.
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