Child support laws vary from state to state, particularly when it comes to whether a parent will be obligated to pay for post-majority expenses relating to college.
In Pennsylvania and Delaware, the law is such that children are considered emancipated upon the age of 18 or graduation from high school, whichever occurs last. Thereafter, neither party has any obligation for basic child support or to contribute to college tuition and related expenses. Conversely, in New York and New Jersey, a parent can be obligated to pay for post-majority support, as children are not necessarily considered emancipated until after college graduation.
The New Jersey Appellate Division recently addressed the differences between Pennsylvania’s and New Jersey’s approaches to college support in the case of Flynn v. Flynn. In this case, the parties were divorced in Pennsylvania. Their child support obligation was initially determined in the Commonwealth and was part of their Property Settlement Agreement, which was incorporated into their Divorce Decree. Sometime thereafter, both parties and the child moved to New Jersey and registered the Decree there.
After high school graduation, the parties’ son began attending college, thus resulting in the issue of whether the parents could be held responsible for payment of his college expenses. The trial court found that, because the parties and the son resided in New Jersey, the payment of college support could be compelled pursuant to New Jersey law. However, the appellate court found that because Pennsylvania initially determined the support obligation of the parties, Pennsylvania law should still be applied. Applying Pennsylvania law resulted in the termination of both parties’ child support obligations upon the son’s graduation from high school. Thus, neither could be compelled to contribute to his college expenses or basic support.
The Pennsylvania appellate courts have not yet addressed such a scenario. This is interesting, as it is rather common for people to move from state to state, particularly between Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
The Flynn decision raises a lot of questions. First, what would Pennsylvania do if the situation was reversed? Moreover, the fact that the parties had gone to court in New Jersey about support since moving there did not seem to make a difference to the appellate court as to whether Pennsylvania law should still be applied.
I find it interesting that the fact that the initial Support Order had been litigated and modified after its initial determination in Pennsylvania carried no weight in the New Jersey appellate court’s decision.Also, what about situations in which only one party move to a state with post-majority child support?Finally, how many people are going to consider all other states’ possible child support rules when they are determining an initial support award? I am sure parties are not considering what a potential move to another state five or ten years later will do to their support obligation. It will be interesting to see if the Flynn decision results in further litigation regarding this issue in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
If you have an interstate child support issue or any other questions related to child support, please contact our Family Law attorneys by calling 215-362-2474 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.