Can Child Support Be Used to Pay for College?

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It’s not uncommon for a certain amount of confusion to arise around the issue of whether or not child support can be used to pay for college. Technically speaking, the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines apply to the cost of raising a child from birth to the age of 18. Consequently, New Jersey’s Child Support Guidelines do not apply to children over the age of 18 unless they are still in high school or attending a similar secondary educational institution.

However, in certain situations, the court may decide to extend child support beyond the age of 18. In general, the court will act in what it believes to be a child’s best interests. In what way, then, could extending child support to pay for college be considered “in a child’s best interests”?

Child Support and College Expenses: Understanding When It May Not Apply

In general, when a child reaches the age of 18 or is considered “emancipated,” child support payments stop. Most custodial parents are puzzled by this and often ask why, when college costs continue to rise, child support isn’t extended to pay for college.

Part of the reason child support may not be ordered in relation to college costs is the amount paid toward child support in the first place. Secondly, many college students work to help pay for their own education, or else they take out loans. Here, if a student can bear some of the costs of his or her education, child support is deemed unnecessary by the court.

Lastly, if a student is in need of financial help to defray the costs of college, it may make more sense for the noncustodial parent to give money directly to his or her child rather than doing so indirectly through the custodial parent.

Case Law: Child Support and College Expenses in New Jersey

In Newburgh v. Arrigo, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided that, given the egalitarian nature of society and the increasing number of families interested in sending their children to college, the following 12 factors should be used to determine if child support should be used to pay for college:

  1. Whether the parent, if still living with the child, would have contributed toward the costs of the requested higher education
  2. The effect of the background, values and goals of the parent on the reasonableness of the child’s expectation for higher education
  3. The amount of the contribution sought by the child for the cost of higher education
  4. The ability of the parent to pay that cost
  5. The relationship of the requested contribution to the kind of school or course of study sought by the chil
  6. The financial resources of both parents
  7. The commitment to and aptitude of the child for the requested education
  8. The financial resources of the child, including assets owned individually or held in custodianship or trust
  9. The ability of the child to earn income during the school year or vacations
  10. The availability of financial aid in the form of college grants and loans
  11. The child’s relationship to the paying parent, including mutual affection and shared goals, as well as responsiveness to parental advice and guidance
  12. The relationship of the education requested to any prior training and to the overall long-range goals of the child

Contact Mount Laurel Child Custody Attorneys at Taylor & Boguski

If you’re unsure whether or not the Newburgh ruling applies to your situation, contact Mount Laurel child support attorneys at Taylor & Boguski. We can review your situation and determine the best legal options available to you for determining if you have a case for extending child support to help pay for your child’s college education.