Divorce Train Wrecks, Education / Schools, Family Law, Kids, Money

How Long Do You Have To Keep Supporting Your Child?

You gotta grow up sometime.

Quick question: when is your child no longer a “child,” so that you are not legally obligated to support the bugger when you are a non-custodial parent?

If you answered “over 18,” you might be wrong, depending on your state. Some states require you to pay child support for college expenses even after your kids are no longer minors. Sounds “enlightened,” doesn’t it? I’m sure it does if you are a university president who enjoys charging as much as possible for tuition. I’m telling you, birth control is the biggest bargain in the world.

A decision last week will take one state off the list of those with an extended definition of childhood. The decision can be looked at in a lot of ways: it’s a strike against the extended childhood of millennials, while at the same time registering as a shot to single parents trying to do their best for their children. And the decision is penned by a wackadoodle judge who probably thinks this will help Jesus in his eternal quest to keep people locked into loveless marriages.

It’s fun for the whole family…

The Alabama Supreme Court reversed its 1989 ruling that non-custodial parents must pay child support to help with their kids’ college expenses. The ABA Journal reports:

The ruling stems from a 2010 case in which a divorced father asked a court to require his ex-wife to help pay college expenses for their son, who was about to turn 19. The trial court ordered the ex-wife to pay for 25 percent of the son’s college costs, a ruling which was later upheld on appeal.

But Friday’s decision sent the case back to the appeals court.

In the court’s majority opinion, Chief Justice Roy Moore said Alabama’s child custody law does not define the word “children,” leaving the courts to apply the plain or common-law definition of a child, which is a minor.

Yes, that’s Ten Commandments Roy Moore. That’s “I’m Going To Keep Running For Governor, Damnit” Roy Moore. God-fearing Roy Moore wrote an opinion that is a body blow to single parents and favors deadbeats who don’t want to meet their responsibilities to their children. And I kind of agree with it? I think???

I mean, at some point children have to support themselves, right? I think it’s great for parents to help out with college tuition for their children… but they can’t be legally required to do so. Otherwise, when does it stop? What if the kid wants to (gulp) go to law school? Do non-custodial parents have to pay for that too? If you have to borrow more for school because your non-custodial parent doesn’t want to help out, that sucks for you, but you shouldn’t expect the courts to make that right. Just be a dick to your non-custodial, unhelpful parent, until they come crawling back to you so they can see their grandkids. That’s how it’s worked for generations. It’s the circle of life.

Something called Mr. Custody Coach has the following list of states that will force parents to keep paying child support for college (I’m not vouching for the accuracy of this list, so somebody with Westlaw access and an insatiable desire to correct things on the internet should feel free to update me):

Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah and Washington

That’s a weird list of places that don’t usually agree with each other on issues of family values and the law.

Again, I think that extending child support to the college years is certainly the more enlightened thing to do. I’m just not sure that making it a legal requirement is the “right” thing to do. If you’re mature enough to go to college, you should be mature enough to beg your parents for money without the threat of state action backing you up.

Noncustodial parents not responsible for college costs of adult children, court says [ABA Journal]
Alabama Supreme Court overturns 1989 decision requiring noncustodial parents to pay college costs for adult children (updated) [Alabama.com]

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