As spring turns into summer, many parents are experiencing the joys of witnessing their children achieve great academic accomplishments, whether it be graduation from high school or college. For parents who are either divorced or were never married and are either paying or receiving child support, these momentous occasions also give rise to a change in circumstances which warrants a review and modification, or even elimination, of the child support award.
As a preliminary matter, it is important for individuals to understand that the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines which are typically used to calculate the appropriate child support payments are inapplicable once children reach a certain age and/or move on to college, as specifically set forth therein: "These child support guidelines are intended to apply to children who are less than 18 years of age or more than 18 years of age but still attending high school or a similar secondary educational institution. For the reasons set forth below, the Appendix IX- F support schedules shall not be used to determine parental contributions for college or other post-secondary education (hereafter college) expenses nor the amount of support for a child attending college."
Once your child attains the age of 18 and/or graduates high school, therefore, it is important to have a qualified family law attorney review your child support award to determine if same should be modified or eliminated, as the basis for calculating the child support due transfers away from the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines and to the factors set forth in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23.
It is also important to note that while many people believe that there are hard and fast rules regarding the emancipation of a child upon their graduation from high school, the relevant case law makes it clear that the inquiry is more complex than many people realize, as even a child who has not continued on to full time college may be entitled to child support from their parents so long as they are still under the custodial parent's "sphere of influence." Furthermore, there is no hard and fast rule which states that child support is automatically eliminated upon a child's graduation from college, although it is common. As a result, it is imperative that you consult with a qualified family law attorney to review the specific circumstances of your situation, whether your child is graduating high school or college, taking time off from their post-secondary education, or otherwise, so that you fully understand your rights and obligations as it relates to child support and emancipation.