Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.

May I Pay Child Support Directly To My Child?

Yes, under certain circumstances, the parent paying child support may pay part of their support obligation directly to a child who is an adult yet unemancipated under New Jersey law. As child support lawyers, the attorneys at our law firm understand that special conditions are required in order for a judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey to approve such an arrangement.

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First, not only must the child be at least 18 years of age but a judge must also find that the child has a past that demonstrates that they are very mature and responsible young adults. Second, the money paid towards particular expenditures for the child, that must be approved beforehand, absolutely must go towards that expense. The child must also provide proof that these monies went towards the expense in question. Third, has the parent who pays child support been historically consistent with their child support payments in the past. Finally, a New Jersey Family Court would analyze how the direct payments may impact the parent receiving the child support as far as their ability to sustain a home for the child as well.

In Kayahan v. Kayahan, the Honorable Judge Jones of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Ocean County, Family Part addressed whether a parent could pay a portion of child support directly to a unemancipated child over the age of eighteen, instead of paying it to the custodial parent. Judge Jones held that Family Part courts have the discretion to allow a non-custodial parent to pay a part of his or her child support obligation directly to a unemancipated child over the age of eighteen, depending on certain factors. In such a situation, the child would be allowed to use the money only for specifically designated and pre-approved costs, and would have to continuously provide both parents with proof of what the money was used for. When determining if directly paid child support is appropriate the court should consider: the child’s maturity and responsibility, the supporting parents history of paying child support on time, and if there would be enough child support left for the custodial parent to use towards the child’s main home, without the potential for serious financial hardship. If a financial hardship would be likely from ordering child support to be paid directly to the child, a Family Part court has authority to refuse to modify the current child support arrangement.

After a long marriage, Sidka and Selim Kayahan divorced in 2007. They had one child together, referred to as “Dina” by the court, who was twenty-years old at the time the present motion was heard. According to a 2012 court order, Selim was required to pay Sidka child support in an amount of $ 242 every week, and was further obligated to pay fifty eight percent of Dina’s college expenses. This court order was predicated on the fact that Selim earned $ 42,000 a year, while Sidka earned $ 30,000 a year, and that Dina attended a less expensive community college compared to a more expensive private university.

Dina graduated from Ocean County Community College in January 2015 with an associate’s degree. Soon after her graduation, Selim went to court to get an order to either emancipate her, or modify his child support obligation. He argued that a modification was warranted because his income was significantly reduced from 42,000 a year to $ 30,000 a year as a truck driver. He further requested that if he did have to continue making child support payments, the court should allow him to pay his child support directly to his daughter instead of through his ex-wife.

Sidka countered the emancipation request, and explained that just months after her graduation from Ocean County Community College, Dina was accepted to Stockton University where she would be a full-time, commuting, undergraduate student. In addition, she also opposed the reduction of Selim’s child support obligation. Sidka argued that she need the $ 242 a week to support Dina and pay for the child’s primary home. Moreover, she alleged that her own income had reduced since the 2012 order. She provided evidence that proved she currently worked two jobs, as a health aide and a clerk, and earned a total of about $ 18,000 a year in gross income

After a thorough hearing, Selim’s request to emancipate Dina was denied, because she was continuing her education as a full-time college student, by pursuing an undergraduate bachelor’s degree. The court did not see here short transitional break between studying at Ocean County Community College, and Stockton University to require a mandatory and permanent emancipation. The court did, however, find that both parents suffered from decreases in income since the 2012 order, and Dina’s costs for the last two years of her undergraduate education had increased. As such, neither Sidka nor Selim could reasonably afford to provide the same level of support or college contribution in 2015 that they did in 2012.

While attending college, Dina worked part-time and earned extra money to help her meet her budget. To the court this represented a level of maturity and responsibility on Dina’s part. In regards to child support, however, Dina was still unemancipated, and so her still have an obligation to support her. Usually a child support award would be based on the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines, but Judge Jones explained that because she was over the age of eighteen, and her parents were both also helping her with college expenses, the proper analysis was to use the factors set enumerated in New Jersey Statute 2A:34-23. The Family Part court of Ocean County analyzed these factors with Selim’s substantial income reduction, and his ongoing contribution of $ 1,500 a semester for college costs and reduced his child support obligation from $ 242 a week to $ 125 a week. Then Judge moved onto the question whether Selim could pay his child support obligation to his daughter directly rather than paying through his ex-wife. The court found that such an arrangement could be legally permissible, appropriate, and equitable in certain situations, but this was not one of those situations.

Judge Jones explained that the concept of paying child support directly to a child instead of a custodial parent was addressed in the 2012 New Jersey Appellate Division case of Jacoby v. Jacoby, where the court stated that making direct child support payments to an unemancipated child in college, over the age of eighteen, maybe appropriate in some cases. To Judge Jones, Jacoby signified the “opening of the legal door to the concept of paying at least some of an existing child support obligation directly to an unemancipated child of college age.” In taking the natural progression of Jacoby forward, the Ocean County Family Part court recognized certain circumstances where it could be fair, logical, and reasonable to allow a parent to pay a portion of his or her child support directly to their college-aged child. There is, however, a need to minimize the risk of a inexperienced or immature child wasting the child support. Child support is not an allowance, instead it is intended to help with basic needs and other important necessary costs in a child’s life. However, allowing direct payment of child support implanted with safeguards and ground rules allows the child a valuable opportunity to learn how to handle money, pay bills, and manage a budget before entering the real world. Furthermore, a direct payment arrangement might also help the parent-child bond through ongoing communication and teaching opportunities

The Ocean County Family Part found that Dina was mature and responsible by going to college and working. Additionally, there was no evidence in her history of frivolous spending. There was only one factor that held Judge Jones back from ordering a direct payment arrangement. Because the court had reduced his child support obligation from $ 242 to $ 125 a week, Sidka had far less funds from which to maintain the child’s home. This reduction of funds came from both parent’s lower incomes and Selim’s reduced ability to pay. The court reasoned that if it were to reduce the available funds to her even further, Sidka would not be able to maintain the house and basic living budget for Dina. This would not be in Dina’s best interest, as she is dependent on her mother. When determining if a direct payment arrangement is appropriate a court must consider if there would sufficient money left over for the custodial parent to maintain the child’s main house, without economic hardship. Therefore, Judge Jones denied Selim’s request to pay a portion of his child support to his daughter directly.

Please contact my office to learn more about how we may help you if you are having issues with child support.