Child support, through age 23?

by Walter Olson on January 7, 2010

A bill introduced into the Virginia legislature would put payers of child support on the hook for older kids and indeed young adults so long as they are attending college. [Hans Bader, Examiner]

P.S. A reader writes: “We have this in Connecticut. It is a disaster. On paper, the CT court is to consider all factors as to whether it is reasonable to order a parent to pay child support. In reality, it is ordered whether or not the parent can afford to pay, whether or not the adult ‘child’ even speaks to the parent. So you have children who are basically giving their parent no respect or any sort of relationship who are given a free college ride. It is also used as a tool by vindictive parents against the other parent.” More: Alkon.

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01.20.10 at 9:21 am

{ 14 comments }

1 shg 01.07.10 at 9:06 am

Be happy there isn’t a maturity test for termination of child support.

2 South Parkie 01.07.10 at 9:49 am

Another example of the “Cartman Technique”. Once divorced parents must support their post-majority children, then it won’t be long before all parents are assigned the same obligation in the name of Equal Protection.

3 Casca 01.07.10 at 10:06 am

Gotta keep those seats full at the community colleges.

4 Pete Warden 01.07.10 at 10:32 am

Legislating parental responsibility can have some unintended consequences. I had a close friend in college who had a broken relationship with her mother (long story involving schizophrenia and court cases), but who nevertheless didn’t qualify for any of the normal financial assistance. The problem was her mother had assets and so all the grant and loan programs either expected her to support her daughter or sign a form declaring she wasn’t supporting her. Since she refused to do either, my friend was left without access to financial aid.

It’s not just the parents who can get screwed by these sorts of laws; once there’s a legal expectation of parental support it tends to get baked into every other program too, leaving the offspring of ‘deadbeats’ high and dry.

5 Frank 01.07.10 at 11:20 am

The biggest problem with this is that it imposes on divorcees a duty to provide support that is not imposed on married parents. In theory all parents must provide ordinary financial support – shelter, sustenance. My 50 year married parents were not required (nor should they have been) to pay my college tuition.

6 GregS 01.07.10 at 12:05 pm

Frank: See South Parkie’s post above yours. I think that’s what he was referring to.

This is just the latest in the decades-long trend towards the infantalization of young people. Only a few decades ago the average 23 year old would already be married with kids and would have already been working for several years. A 23 year old would have been considered a fully-responsible adult, with all the expectations of supporting himself like an adult. Today, legislators can talk about 23 year old children with a straight face. How long until we’re not considered to be adults until we’re 30?

7 EGarland 01.07.10 at 12:33 pm

I’ve seen first hand the silliness that can result from Virginia’s child support system…

The State raised my daughter’s child support payments (she’s the payee) the same month she quit a job as a government contractor…she was unaware that they had tripled her payment to $600 based on her current salary until after she quit…however, because she wasn’t making payments during her job search, she was listed as deadbeat, which means she lost her security clearance…

When she went to court to try to get the payments lowered to reflect her (now) lower salary, she was informed she had to find a job “equivalent to the one previously held” – but of course, without a clearance, she couldn’t do that…

Nevertheless, she now has to pay $600 (plus interest) monthly out of a $1400 monthly salary while meeting a car payment and daycare for her other (custodial) child…plus, because of her “base” salary, she isn’t eligible for Medicaid…if she didn’t live in my spare bedroom, she would be better off on welfare…

8 semper ubi 01.07.10 at 7:00 pm

Pete Warden

This is similar to my situation going to university. Divorced parents, no planning for my education, squabbling over who would provide support — upshot, neither did. Applied for financial aid, disclosed parental assets — upshot, no aid. Aid advisor suggested suing my parents, though when I asked on what basis, it seemed a little … unclear. Realistically, that wasn’t an option. They were being dorks, clearly, but I wasn’t going to litigate a family squabble. Plus I was 19, and was an independent adult, after all.

9 Farky 01.07.10 at 8:33 pm

I agree.. the child support system is damaged beyond repair. Conservatives keep asking, “Why aren’t men marrying and raising children?” Well, because it’s a stacked deck. Give me my vasectomy and damn the future, I don’t want to be on the hook for the next 25 years just because mommy couldn’t be bothered to take her pill.

10 Bumper 01.08.10 at 1:37 am

I don’t believe this is really new. I remember a law suit in the 60s where the well-off and well-educated parents were ordered by the court to pay for college for a over 18 child. The basis was that the parent should provide an education experience for the child similar to what they had attained. I remember this because I used to aggravate my college professor PhD dad with it. While he willing paid for my college he bristled at the thought of being required to do it. Must be a genetic thing. But thanks to tonite’s BCS both my boys have had the opportunity to experience the same thing I did at my alma mater, a National Championship in football.

11 A.W. 01.08.10 at 9:05 am

i am not sure the law is the right answer, but still refusing to help a kid with college because of a divorce is pretty low.

And frankly married parents can’t be forced to pay for college, so why should divorced parents be forced to?

12 Mark in Texas 01.08.10 at 12:18 pm

Since this is a site with lawyers posting, perhaps somebody can tell me if it would be possible for some state to opt out of the reciprocity of enforcing these sort of financial awards. We have the example of Nevada which used to have an industry out of not having laws against gambling, prostitution and allowed much more lenient divorces. Other states now allow gambling and lenient divorce laws are now pretty universal but at one point Nevada was the only place in the US where this could be done.

If there were some state where “deadbeat dads” would not have their wages garnished or be subject to imprisonment for failure to pay court ordered alimony or child support, that would seem to give that state a competitive advantage in attracting some fraction of the 30% of the male population that find themselves with those obligations. Corporations could open branch offices there knowing that even though they pay lower wages there, their workers would be keeping a lot more of their income than they would elsewhere.

I would guess that Wyoming would be a state that might try this since it could use the additional economic development and because their reaction when the Federal government threatened to cut off funds because they were insufficiently zealous in enforcing the 55 MPH speed limit was to reply that they would stop plowing the snow from I-80 and I-90.

13 Le Mur 01.08.10 at 1:23 pm

Since this is a site with lawyers posting, perhaps somebody can tell me if it would be possible for some state to opt out of the reciprocity of enforcing these sort of financial awards.

I’m not a lawyer, so my answer is better than a lawyer would give you because they love this kind of crap.

As in other cases where the feds force the states to run unconstitutional programs for them (the old 55mph, some welfare programs including child support, etc), the feds use extortion: “pass this law that’s unconstitutional for us to pass or lose federal funding for…whatever is vaguely associated with the law”, in this case fed subsidies for welfare, food stamps, etc. So yeah, it’d be possible, but not likely. Tho you mention Wyoming, IIRC only Montana ignored the 55mph extortion. ($5 non-moving ticket for ‘wasting gas’)

14 nevins 01.09.10 at 7:49 pm

So kids will never grow up and parents will remain fiscally responsible for them until the day that the tables are turned. http://www.ncpa.org/pub/ba521
Legal requirement for filial responsibility, meet parental requirement to support your kids till you die.

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