Kids Suing Parents to Pay for College

The case of the 18 year old New Jersey girl suing her parents to pay for her college education has been in the news recently. While this isn’t a divorce case per se, it highlights the issues that can arise within a marriage and cause stress. In this case the 18 year old is estranged from her parents and is not living at home. She claims she was forced to leave the home and her parents state that she chose to leave because she did not want to follow their rules. The girl is 18 but still finishing her senior year of high school. She is also suing her parents to pay the tuition to her private high school and for reimbursement of living expenses and attorney fees. It is interesting to note that she is living in the home of a school friend whose father is an attorney and is the one funding her lawsuit.

It appears that the law in New Jersey may require parents to continue to support children that are admitted to college and that the simple fact of being in college may prove that the child is not emancipated. The question is what would happen if this case took place in Pennsylvania instead of New Jersey? In the Pennsylvania case of Blue v. Blue the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has stated that the duty of support continues until a child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, whichever comes last and does not require parents to pay for their children to attend college. Clearly, if this case were in Pennsylvania the child requesting college tuition would not be able to force her parents to pay.

The more difficult question would be whether the parents would be responsible for support until she has completed her senior year of high school. As the Blue case states parents are liable for support until the child graduates from high school. The child in New Jersey has not graduated and still has a need for support. The Court in this case would most likely have to decide if the child was emancipated. The issue of whether she left on her own would be an important factor for the Court in deciding the case. If she was forced out by her parents they may well have a responsibility to continue to support her. In Pennsylvania whether a child is emancipated is a question of fact for a Court to decide. The Court looks at the child’s age, marital status, ability to support himself or herself, and the desire to live independently of his or her parents. Because there is a dispute as to whether or not she left on her own or was forced out, the Court would have to determine the truth of whether she was forced out or left on her own.

In the New Jersey case, a Judge did not grant any immediate relief for the payment of the child’s high school tuition because he believed that there was no emergency requiring him to act immediately. The issue of whether the parents will ultimately be found to be responsible is still pending and will be heard in April.

For more information on this topic or any other topic related to issues of divorce, custody, support or family law in general, please contact Kris Smull or call (800) 615-0115.

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