Child support is both a legal and moral obligation—but many people feel that the obligation should stop once the child turns 18, or at least when the child graduates high school, if that's a little later. However, not all courts agree on this issue—some will order parents to contribute to a child's college expenses as well. Learn more about when college support is ordered and what that might mean.
Your state's laws may determine whether or not college support is an issue.
Each state has its own laws regarding child support, which can greatly affect whether or not you have to be concerned about any legal order to pay college support. For example, in Arizona, all legal duty to provide support ends once the child turns 18. However, Connecticut law allows the court to order support through the age of 23 for the purpose of obtaining a bachelor's or vocational degree.
College support may be a conditional order, not automatic.
Even in states that can impose a college support order, the order is usually conditional. That means that the court looks at several different factors before deciding if the order is appropriate:
Courts may also take into account your relationship with the child in question. If you've been generally estranged from the child for years, the court may decide that your obligation for support ends at 18.
Your child may choose to press the issue if you refuse to pay support.
There have been situations where a child over the age of 18 has pressed the issue of college support independently. For example, 21-year-old Caitlyn Ricci sued both her parents for college support after they declined to assist her higher education goals. While her mother had been her primary caretaker, Caitlyn had become estranged from her mother and moved in with her grandparents. As a resident of New Jersey, however, Caitlyn had legal standing to sue because that state allows for college support under the right circumstances.
It's important that you understand whether or not your obligation for support can continue if your child chooses to go to college or vocational school. If you haven't reviewed the terms of your support agreement or are unsure of the law and the issue is coming close, talk to a child support attorney like Lisa Cappolella Attorney at Law today to discuss the issue.
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