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Does child support continue when a teen heads off to college?

Scores of Minnesota teens will head off to college this fall with the expectation of their parents' full financial backing. What many of them may not consider, though, is the idea that they might sue their parents if their tuition money is not delivered as promised. That is what one 18-year-old New Jersey woman decided to do when her parents decided to withdraw offers for college tuition payments.

The question, of course, is whether the teen still falls under her parents' financial umbrella even though she has reached the age of legal maturity. This situation actually parallels common child support disputes, during which children's age of majority may not always be the end-point for payments. In fact, child support agreements may require one parent to pay a certain amount toward the child's continued education, which could include trade school or college.

Minnesota is a state that demands automatic emancipation at age 18. New Jersey law does not include such a provision. That is why attorneys in the teen's case are attempting to determine whether the woman intentionally broke contact with her parents; that critical fact could determine the outcome of the case.

In Minnesota, parents are required to ensure that their children attend school through age 17. They must also provide shelter that is safe, along with adequate meals. Ultimately, child custody and support is often based on the fact that the children will receive the minimum standard of care. When discussing whether parents "owe" something to their children, it is conceivable that Minnesota judges would not include university tuition in the list of requisite items.

The teen in this case has prompted nationwide discussion about the requirements that should be placed on parents. With the high number of divorced parents in Minnesota and other states, this is particularly salient for those abiding by a support agreement. A Minnesota attorney may be able to answer questions about ongoing child support agreements, including those that mandate college tuition payments.

Source: CBS Minnesota, "Good Question: What Do Parents Legally Owe Their Kids?" Heather Brown, Mar. 05, 2014

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