Friday, June 10, 2005

Paying for college

A lot of people think that custody obligations end at the age of maturity, typically 18. They imply that fathers get off easy by escaping the largest single expense of children -- the cost of college education.

In fact, approximately 21 states authorize family courts to order non-custodial fathers to make support payments beyond age 18, or even beyond age 21, for education or sometimes even other purposes. New Jersey is one such state. See Newburgh v. Newburgh, 88 N.J. 529, 443 A.2d 1031 (1982).

Indiana is a state where non-custodial fathers are routinely ordered to pay college expenses. A recent appellate decision, Snow v. Rincker,
shows how unreasonably that power is exercised. A blue-collar father who earns $42,000 a year was ordered to pay the cost of his adult daughter's education at an out-of-state private university.

The appellate court did hold that in the circumstances of this case, the order was excessive. If paying for private college would reduce the father to poverty, the court said his obligation should be limited to the cost of paying for state-supported college. But even that modest concession was achieved by only a 2-1 vote, with one judge dissenting.

No comments: