Do You Have to Pay Child Support for a Child in College?

Picture of divorcing couple

By Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, P.C.Child Custody

No doubt about it, raising children brings immense financial responsibility. Often, the responsibility does not end when the child legally becomes an adult. If you are wondering whether you need to continue to pay child support while your child is in college, the answer is: it depends.

Like a related question we hear often – “Can I stop paying child support when the child turns 18?” – the answer depends on state laws, the age at which your child is attending college, and some related factors. New York and New Jersey have differing rules so it is important to follow up-to-date guidelines for your state.

Termination of child support in New York

In New York, a parent must support a child until the age of 21. If the child is under 21, a parent is not obligated to provide support if the child is:

  • Married;
  • Self-supporting; or
  • In the military

In any of these situations, the child is considered to be “emancipated” so the parents are not obligated to continue paying support.

The child may also be considered emancipated if he or she:

  • Is between 17 and 21 years old;
  • Leaves the parents’ home; and
  • Refuses to obey reasonable commands from the parents

Therefore a New York parent will often be obligated to pay support for a child in college if the child is under 21 and not providing for his or herself. However, it is evident that there are other factors that can affect the responsibility.

New Jersey child support termination

In general, in New Jersey, the obligation to support a child lasts until a child turns 19 – but the full answer is, unsurprisingly, more complicated than that.

Until January 2017, a parent’s support obligation ended when a child turned 18, but on February 1, 2017, the age of termination was changed to 19. This means an obligation to support may automatically terminate when the child turns 19. However, the custodial parent can request continuation of support if the child is:

  • Still in high school;
  • Enrolled full-time in post-secondary education; or
  • Physically or mentally disabled.

In some cases, the obligation for support can end when a child turns 18 if the child financially independent. In this situation, a parent must file papers requesting that the court declare the child “emancipated.”

If your college student is under 19 or enrolled full-time, you may still be required to pay support to the custodial parent.

Understanding child support in NY and NJ

At the law firm of Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, we help New York and New Jersey residents understand their rights and obligations when it comes to child support, even as life circumstances change. Our divorce lawyers serve individuals and families from our offices in Rockland County and Bergen County. Call us toll-free at 888-624-4916 to schedule a private consultation.

Additional child support resources:

  1. New York State Legislature, Domestic Relations 240 – Custody and child support; orders of protection,
  2. Justia, 2015 New Jersey Revised Statutes Section 2A:17-56.67 – Termination of obligation to pay child support,
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