As a divorced parent of a teen or adult child, you're probably aware that the family courts generally expect both parents to contribute to their children's college expenses. These expenses include things like tuition, room and board, books and school supplies. While paying for college does not negate the existing child support order, parents do have the right to file for a reduction in the standard support amount. This issue is particularly relevant in the case of children who plan to live on campus, or have student loans that cover off-campus housing.
A reduction, however, is granted on a case-by-case basis, even for children within the same family. This has been made clear through cases such as Jacoby v. Jacoby, in which a father requested a reduction in child support for his second child, who was going to be living away at college. The father had assumed that his request would be approved, since he had previously been granted a reduction in support when his first child went away to college. His request, however, was denied by both the superior and Appellate courts on the basis that a child's need for financial support does not necessarily lessen when he or she lives at college. Furthermore, the Appellate Division agreed with the trial judge that the second child's needs -- even while attending college -- necessitated the continuance of the standard support amount.
Examining the current factors surrounding each family is a valid point considering how people's finances change over time. In addition, room and board plans can vary from school to school, as well as the amount of scholarship and student loan monies that your child is eligible to receive. Your child may also need specialized equipment and supplies, depending on the type of school, academic program and extracurricular activities. It's also important to note that many children do come home during the weekends, in addition to coming back home for the holidays and semester breaks. In that case, the custodial parent would still need some level of financial assistance with day-to-day expenses for food, utilities, entertainment, etc. While these expenses are typically lower for adult children, the Appellate court stressed in Jacoby v. Jacoby that there is no presumption of support reduction just because the child is away at college.
The lesson here is that one can never make assumptions about a child's needs, at least as determined by the New Jersey family courts. The obligation of child support for children attending college is a highly subjective issue, but it's clear that the courts examine numerous legal, social and personal factors before approving any modifications to an existing order. The experienced family law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C. can advise you on the specific factors that may apply to your case, and give you the effective representation you need at your modification hearing. For more information on your child support rights and legal options, please schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.