When Child Support Must Be Paid To An Adult Child Working Full-Time

Most divorce agreements provide something to the effect that the parent paying child support must pay until the child reaches 18 years of age, unless the child is still  a full time student. Usually, an adult child who is working full time is considered emancipated, and therefore is generally not entitled to receive child support.

But what if the adult child is also taking full-time college courses at the same time they are working full-time? A New Jersey appeals court just overruled a divorce judge on this question. The judge had essentially ruled that such a working adult child is emancipated. Period.  But the higher court said not so fast. Rather, the appeals  court ruled that, in such a case, before declaring the child emancipated, the divorce judge must take testimony and receive evidence, to determine if the child has moved “‘beyond the sphere of influence and responsibility” of his parents. The fact that the child is “working [full-time]  while attending school cannot be the sole determinative factor in the decision to emancipate.”

If I were representing the spouse receiving child support in a case like this, I would have moved to increase the child support paid. I imagine that it must be hard to concentrate on a full load of school credits while working full time.  Let the child concentrate on his or her studies. Working part-time should be enough. In the long run, the child getting the best possible education will benefit all concerned.

Those interested can read the case here: http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/opinions/a3038-12.pdf