The New Jersey Teen Child Support Case Explained

Recently, national news networks covered the case of Rachel Canning, the 18-year-old New Jersey high school student who sued her parents for child support and payment of her college tuition. This case generated a great deal of interest, and many people questioned how it was able to go as far as it did. We thought it would be worth taking some time to discuss what made that case possible and why such a case is unlikely to occur in Connecticut.

Even though the judge ultimately ruled against the teen petitioner, the case may not have been as ridiculous as many people thought. Several unique features of New Jersey child support law made this case possible. Fortunately, such a case is unlikely to appear in Connecticut — or in most other states for that matter — for several reasons:

  • New Jersey law allows a parent’s support obligation to continue as long as children are unable to support themselves. While 18 is the age of majority, a child is not automatically emancipated at that time. In Connecticut, a child is automatically emancipated at the age of 18 under most circumstances, and support obligations usually terminate at that time.
  • New Jersey law actually includes higher education expenses as part of parents’ basic obligations to financially support their children under some circumstances. Most other states, including Connecticut, do not do this.

Parents are free to bargain between themselves regarding a child’s college expenses and support past the age of 18. However, such considerations should be carefully negotiated and memorialized with the help of an experienced family law attorney. At Flaherty Legal Group in West Hartford, Attorneys James Flaherty, Sandi Girolamo and Pamela Magnano guide clients with children through custody, support, and family law matters and advocate for the best interest of the children involved.