There is no question that parents owe their children a duty of support. The struggle between courts and parents alike is how long that duty needs to last. Most states agree that 19 years of age is the latest a parent is required to support the child, including New Jersey. However, in New Jersey, emancipation can occur once the child turns 18 or becomes financially independent, in which case the parents would file papers requesting the child be emancipated. But what about when the child decides to seek higher education – should the parents be prepared to pay for this? Is there a right for a child to be educated? One recent case, entitled Ricci v. Ricci, explores this issue in greater detail, and in more interesting circumstances.
In this case, parents of the child, Caitlyn, agreed to emancipate her when she left her mother’s home to live with her grandparents at 19. Having been divorced since Caitlyn was 4, both parties filed a consent order terminating child support. Caitlyn intervened, asking to vacate the emancipation order and also requesting an order for her parents to provide funds so she could attend college. The appellate court goes over the record at length, with both intervenor and the other parties disagreeing as to the family dynamics which led Caitlyn to live with her grandparents.
The mother alleged that Caitlyn smoked marijuana, had trouble with alcohol, was sexually promiscuous and essentially failed to follow the rules imposed on her in her mother’s home. Caitlyn stated she simply did not fit in with either her mother or father’s new family, and to ease tensions, decided to live with her grandparents. Caitlyn’s father corroborated this view, stating Caitlyn had not spoken to either parent for over six months, missed family birthdays, and asserted that he opposed her moving in with his parents, as he himself was estranged from them and felt they were a root cause for Caitlyn’s rebellion. Continue reading