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A BAD BILL

Filed at 1:17 pm under by dcobranchi

NC’s Senate just passed an amendment to the child support law that raises the required age of support from 18 to 21 if the “kid” is attending college full time. This bill would seem to imply that it is a parent’s legal responsibility to pay for their child’s schooling through age 20. That seems, to me, to be a fairly dramatic change. And I can see how a judge could easily extend that to include all families, and not just divorced ones. After all, the assumption behind child support is that it helps to maintain the standard of living that the child would have experienced had there been no divorce. Since the Senate appears to believe that all kids of divorce are entitled to have their parent(s) pay for their college expenses, I guess they believe that true of all kids.

30 Responses to “A BAD BILL”


Comment by
JJ Ross
May 18th, 2009
at 9:08 am

If court-ordered child support at any age is meant for food, clothes and shelter, then all dependent children — not yet self-supporting IOW — then the only “assumption” or “belief” is that both parents must equitably share subsistence costs for children despite divorce.

That’s no college fund entitlement.

So I’d disagree this is bad law. I’d argue the “dramatic change” was actually the old way, laws that suddenly cut off all court-ordered child support to kids who still need that basic living support.

Most kids are still in high school when that 18th birthday arrives btw. The next morning they are still eating and sleeping at home, outgrowing clothes, wearing out sneakers and playing sports, needing supervision and and movie money, and using endless hot water for showers! 🙂

If they enlist, marry and move out, or otherwise become self-supporting on that birthday, both parents can stop basic support, but when older teens aren’t ready for that dramatic change yet, the calendar isn’t sufficient justification for the dramatic change of one parent cutting off continuing support.


Comment by
dcobranchi
May 18th, 2009
at 9:29 am

The current law (in NC) covers kids up to their 20th b’day if they’re still in high school and making progress towards a diploma. This bill adds two years of college. It also allows the non-custodial parent to pay the “child support” directly to the student or to the college. It really does mandate that a parent is responsible (to the extent of the original child support order) for the 1st two years of college.


Comment by
JJ Ross
May 18th, 2009
at 9:56 am

But not responsible for the tuition then, but for the living expenses, same as before. Right?

And this is intriguing:
“It also allows the non-custodial parent to pay the ‘child support’ directly to the student or to the college. . .”

Presumably because the student/college might be incurring the food/shelter costs now, rather than the custodial parent in the home. So it actually accommodates the non-custodial parent’s concern that the other parent (mom usually) would get the check for her own continuing expenses after the “child” has moved out?

I still don’t see your point that it’s a dramatic change or that it has much to do with actual education law.


Comment by
JJ Ross
May 18th, 2009
at 10:10 am

Daryl, do you think 18 as the legislated “age of majority” might be shifting again, up or down (or just getting more schizophrenic?) — trying teen criminals as adults, drinking, driving, voting, health insurance coverage ages, wills and trusts, etc.

For example I’m bemused by how compulsory attendance law moves up at the exit while simultaneously moving down at the entrance, with the same rationale! How can today’s four-year-olds be more mature and ready sooner for School than ever before, and yet high school kids of this generation are less mature and less ready to leave School at 16 or 18??


Comment by
dcobranchi
May 18th, 2009
at 10:15 am

If the child is attending a community college or college or university as a full-time student, support payments shall continue until the child reaches age 21, unless the child ceases to attend school on a regular basis or fails to make satisfactory academic progress towards graduation. After age 18, child support payments may be given directly to the child or paid directly towards the child’s college expenses.

So where does it say that the “custodial” parent must be making an equal contribution? The college student could be completely independent, living away from home full time and the parent is still responsible for paying “child support”?

So the non-custodial parent is responsible for contributing to living and/or college expenses for the 1st two years. That, to me, is a significant change in the parent-child relationship. And one that would be easily extensible to non-divorced families.

And what about summer breaks? If the kid isn’t in school during the summer, what then? This law seems to me to be very poorly thought out.

I stand by the title.


Comment by
dcobranchi
May 18th, 2009
at 10:22 am

I think schizo is the correct description.

One other wrinkle– NC is the only state that guarantees a college education “free of charge” (sort of) to its residents. That the legislature has never funded the schools at a level that would actually live up to the letter of the constitution makes this change in the law even more comical.


Comment by
JJ Ross
May 18th, 2009
at 10:26 am

I wasn’t trying to talk you out of the title or your stand. 🙂

I don’t argue that it’s well-thought out, only that it does seem to address something that was bad law before and improve it. I know several struggling moms working all the time to raise teens and really needing the child support checks to feed and clothe them and pay the mortgage, and being hard-hit when the dad celebrates the child’s birthday as no-more-pay-day and the mom starts quietly sinking under the whole freight. (Dad has a new family he cares about more than me and mom, is the way these young people tend to see it and to be honest, that’s how it looks to me too.)

Interesting point about the summers but again, I see it as the kid needing food and shelter year-round and not being able to pay it all himself if he’s in classes rather than working most of the time.


Comment by
dcobranchi
May 18th, 2009
at 10:39 am

I could see continuing to pay child support to age 21 if the kid were still living at home (during summer or year round as a commuter student). But I can’t see how the non-custodial parent should be responsible for expenses when the kid is living away from home. This seems, to me, to create a double standard in which the custodial parent has no financial obligation while the non-custodial parent is paying child support.


Comment by
JJ Ross
May 18th, 2009
at 10:44 am

Aha, NC’s supposedly covers college’s educational costs for every student. So doesn’t that just leave the ordinary basic living expenses for families to figure out, same as any other age child?

(Seems like a point for my side!)


Comment by
JJ Ross
May 18th, 2009
at 10:51 am

“This seems, to me, to create a double standard in which the custodial parent has no financial obligation while the non-custodial parent is paying child support.”

Hmmm, that could be our difference in view then. I think of the original court-ordered child support as being equitably split, not that the non-custodial pays enough to cover everything in full. Usually it’s almost embarassing, a few hundred a month per child. Can’t be done in reality!

My two nephews live with their mom, who was divorced and nearly impoverished along with her kids. Child support for each boy as ordered by the court was only about half of what social security would have paid monthly for basic subsistence if the dad had died instead.

Even the really wealthy doctor-lawyer families I’ve seen go through this, aren’t ordered to pay child support that actually covers all the child’s living expenses and lets mom live without working to help support them. (And those families do usually have college funds and trust funds etc anyway, so this is moot.)


Comment by
dcobranchi
May 18th, 2009
at 10:54 am

In theory? Yes. In reality? Hah! Hah!

But, again, I don’t believe that parents are legally responsible for the living expenses of their adult children (after graduation from HS). That’s the status now. In fact, I know some parents who have literally kicked their kids out the door the day after graduation.


Comment by
dcobranchi
May 18th, 2009
at 10:56 am

I think of the original court-ordered child support as being equitably split

And I’d agree. But where in the law does it mandate that the expenses are to be equitably split after the kid moves out to attend college full time?


Comment by
JJ Ross
May 18th, 2009
at 10:57 am

“I know some parents who have literally kicked their kids out the door the day after graduation.”

Gasp! There outta be a law . ..

😉


Comment by
JJ Ross
May 18th, 2009
at 11:02 am

Doesn’t the new law just continue the child support already ordered? So if it was equitable before the 18th birthday, and both parents had to chip in to keep the kid alive all those years, would it be very different if they are sending him grocery and sneaker money instead of doing the shopping themselves?


Comment by
dcobranchi
May 18th, 2009
at 11:09 am

The assumption might be that the expenses were equitably split up to age 18. Once the kid leaves home, though, the custodial parent is off the hook completely. Until and unless the custodial parent is also obligated to pay “child support” for the college/living expenses, this bill would unfairly burden the non-custodial parent.


Comment by
Traci
May 18th, 2009
at 11:16 am

In college funding FASA forms require the tax information & income from the father & mother( both supporting & non supporting parents) to determine the level of student grant & loan money to be awarded. A student must reach the age of 24 for the parental income not to be counted.

I know several families & students that have struggled with the frustration that divorced Dad really does not pay child support anyway & will not be helping with college but his income must be counted anyway thus reducing the amount of funding that could be available to the student. Some families that kid may not have even seen his dad in years while growing up.

My son’s roommate has put himself through college by working & having to take expensive private loans as once he turned 18 his was completely on his own.

Another big problem facing students is that as they graduate college they are often removed from being able to be continued on family medical insurance plans. Or worse yet if they become seriously ill (like with cancer etc… )they must be continued to remain a full time so they can get medical treatment. Hard to do when you are chemo etc….
Some states & private companies have made instated policies that children UNDER 25 STILL LIVING AT HOME can be covered on the family medical insurance.


Comment by
Traci
May 18th, 2009
at 11:24 am

Ugh sorry for the typos & that my thoughts sorta trailed off the at the end.. The phone rang & I got on another train of thought….
Time for some coffee to try clear the brain fog…


Comment by
JJ Ross
May 18th, 2009
at 11:31 am

Technically true I suppose (picturing the college kid home for summer and holidays, locked up and starved like Harry Potter at the Dursleys.)


Comment by
dcobranchi
May 18th, 2009
at 11:42 am

Technically true I suppose (picturing the college kid home for summer and holidays, locked up and starved like Harry Potter at the Dursleys.)

Not, “technically” at all. That’s the way the bill is written. It needs to be pulled back and fixed. If the legislature wants to change the legal obligation of parents to their adult children to include at least 2 years of college, they should do it in a clean bill that is subject to rigorous debate. Mandating that only non-custodial parents are so obligated is unfair and bad law.


Comment by
COD
May 18th, 2009
at 11:47 am

I think this is just a back door attempt by the religious right to eliminate divorce. After all, if you stay married you are under no obligation to pay for your kids college. So this bill bill makes staying married a more attraction option which will lead to a reduction in divorce.


Comment by
JJ Ross
May 18th, 2009
at 11:59 am

I wish Chris was kidding but we do have RR anti-divorce initiatives ginning up in FL — do me a favor, don’t give them any more ideas!

Daryl, what would be the fairest to the kids first, do you think? The ones getting that state education at university and needing living expenses covered. It seems clear that whatever we do in any state, fulltime students living away from home and not working to support themselves while they finish their education, are gonna be supported by some mix of parental and public support. The policy problem is getting that mix just right.

We do agree though, that society is better off not ignoring it, every kid for himself and may the fittest or luckiest survive, right?


Comment by
dcobranchi
May 18th, 2009
at 12:07 pm

I’d propose cutting the “child support” payment by the non-custodial parent in half and backfilling with an identical amount from the custodial parent. During the summer months (assuming the kid is living at home), the payment reverts to 100%/0%. If the kid doesn’t come home for the summer and is not enrolled FTE, nada from either.

If the State is going to mandate that parents have to pay college/living expenses for their adult children away at college, both parents ought to pay.


Comment by
dcobranchi
May 18th, 2009
at 12:17 pm

And I’d make it cover all families, not just busted ones.


Comment by
dcobranchi
May 18th, 2009
at 12:18 pm

And then I’d vote against the bill, of course. 🙂


Comment by
JJ Ross
May 18th, 2009
at 12:37 pm

LOL!


Comment by
COD
May 18th, 2009
at 1:33 pm

No legislated support after age 18. Millions of kids with married yet asshole parents have figured out how to get through college without a monthly check from mommy and daddy, or mom and stepdad, or dad and stepmom, or mom and her boyfriend, or mom and her girlfriend, or whatever. It’s not the end of the world if it takes you six years to get a college degree because you are working and can only go part time. Plenty of kids having college funded by mom and dad take six years because they are partying full time and have to retake half their classes!

Nobody ever promised that life was fair.


Comment by
StarGirl
May 18th, 2009
at 3:37 pm

I’d propose cutting the “child support” payment by the non-custodial parent in half and backfilling with an identical amount from the custodial parent. During the summer months (assuming the kid is living at home), the payment reverts to 100%/0%. If the kid doesn’t come home for the summer and is not enrolled FTE, nada from either.

Problem is, the custodial parent has all kinds of year-round expenses. For example, if the kid is to live with you summers and holidays, you have to have space to put him, so you’re paying more for your living space year-round. The custodial parent is the one most likely to buy the winter coat and boots, to pay for being on the swim team and to buy the bathing suit, and so on. So the custodial parent’s contribution is usually not zero when the child is away at school. The custodial parent’s expenses do not equal the support paid by the non-custodial parent – they are usually much more. And of course it’s the custodial parent who takes time off work to care for the child if they’re sick, etc.

I don’t think every kid should be entitled to having their parents pay for college. But it makes sense to me that the default formula for a divorce settlement ought to include at least living expenses for a child over 18 who is going to college. We all benefit if that kid has the chance to go to college rather than having to go into the full-time job market right away.


Comment by
Karen
May 18th, 2009
at 3:44 pm

Boy, there’s a lot of comments on the thread.

Child support isn’t only paid by non-custodial parents. In many (most?) states, child support is figured based on family income.

There is some table out there (too lazy to look it up right now) that has the relative amount the average family pays to support a child at different income levels. The percentage of income goes down as the income goes up. This percentage is then applied to the family income, then the amounts contributed are proportioned according to proportion of income contributed by each parent, modified by things like amount paid for the kids insurance, other child support and alimony obligations, and the parent’s current family situation.


Comment by
Karen
May 18th, 2009
at 3:47 pm

Daryl: And I’d agree. But where in the law does it mandate that the expenses are to be equitably split after the kid moves out to attend college full time?

It doesn’t need to be addressed in this law. It would fall under existing ways to update child support for equitable contributions. If a parent perceives that the support as ordered isn’t equitable, going to court for a modification of orders is an option.


Comment by
Karen
May 18th, 2009
at 4:00 pm

It looks like NC does use the method I mentioned about for determining child support

Here are the guidelines: nccour...81.pdf

The only mention of custodial parent in there is this:
The schedule assumes that the parent who receives child support claims the tax exemptions for the child. If the parent who receives child support has minimal or no income tax liability, the court may consider requiring the custodial parent to assign the exemption to the supporting parent and deviate from the guidelines.