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Child Attending College May Be a “Change in Circumstances” For Purposes of Child Support

Child support payments. Documents in a court.

Divorce judgments are meant to be the final word on all associated issues–alimony, property division, child custody, child support. Unfortunately, they rarely are completely final. Divorced spouses may move states, come into money, lose their employment, get hurt in an accident, etc. When one spouse’s financial circumstances change significantly from how things were when the divorce judgment was entered, that spouse may wish to modify the ongoing financial support obligations. A recent unpublished New Jersey appellate case illustrates how New Jersey courts will evaluate when a change in circumstances for a shared child may warrant a change in child support. Read on for the details of the case, and contact an experienced New Jersey child support, modification, and divorce attorney with any questions or for help with a New Jersey family law matter.

Attending college is a changed circumstance, but does not automatically reduce child support obligation

The case entitled Koval v. Stern involved a couple who were married for ten years before divorcing, during which time they had two children. The parties agreed to custody and child support, among other things, as part of a property settlement agreement (PSA) which was incorporated into the judgment of divorce. The defendant-father agreed to pay $4,000 per month (later modified to $6,000) in child support once the marital home was sold, maintain life insurance, cover medical expenses, and pay for extracurricular activities for the kids such as summer camp and lessons. The children resided with the plaintiff-mother.

After the kids moved out to attend college, the defendant sought to reduce the child support payments, given that the amount assumed the kids lived at home with the mother. The appellate court affirmed that a “child’s attendance at college is a change in circumstances warranting review of the child support amount.” But, “there is no presumption that a child’s required financial support lessens because he or she attends college.” Room and board costs may decrease if the child no longer resides at home, but other expenses still arise, and the parent may still need to keep the same size home for when the children are not in school.

Here, the family court rejected the father’s motion to reduce child support outright with no factual analysis. The appellate court emphasized that “courts faced with the question of setting child support for college students living away from home must assess all applicable facts and circumstances,” weighing the factors for child support set out in the New Jersey statutes. The court remanded the case for the family court to fully evaluate whether the change in circumstances should alter the child support obligation, based on the specific facts of the case.

Contact a New Jersey Family Law Attorney

If you’re in need of compassionate, experienced, and talented legal help with a divorce or child support modification dispute in New Jersey, contact the Union offices of family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro at 908-964-0102.

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