New York Court Upholds Support Obligation for College Expenses

Generally, New York law dictates that child support obligations end when the child in question turns 21. Parents are free to extend their support obligations via a stipulation; however, for example, it is not uncommon for divorcing parents to develop an agreement defining obligations for their children’s college tuition. As demonstrated in a recent New York opinion, the courts will usually deem such provisions enforceable. If you need assistance with a child support dispute, it is wise to consult a New York child support lawyer to determine your options.

History of the Case

It is alleged that the husband and the wife were married and had three children together. The wife initiated divorce proceedings, and all ancillary matters were resolved through a Stipulation of Settlement in 2017. The stipulation addressed, among other things, child custody, child support, and college expenses. Pursuant to the Stipulation, the wife had sole physical custody of the children, while the husband was obligated to pay child support. The parties were divorced by a Judgment of Divorce later that year.

It is reported that the Stipulation included provisions regarding the children’s future college expenses and the husband’s obligation to maintain a life insurance policy for the benefit of the children. The wife subsequently filed a motion seeking an upward adjustment of child support based on the husband’s increased income, contribution towards college expenses, and proof of compliance with the life insurance provision.

Modifying Obligations Defined by Stipulated Settlements

Regarding child support, the court determined that there had been a substantial change in circumstances since the entry of the Judgment, as evidenced by the significant increase in the husband’s income. Further, the court noted that per the Stipulation, the parties decided not to opt out of statutory provisions allowing for modification based on income changes. Using the Child Support Standards Act (CSSA) guidelines, the court recalculated the parties’ child support obligations based on their respective incomes. Consequently, the court ordered an increase in the husband’s child support obligation retroactive to the date of the wife’s motion.

Concerning college expenses, the court found that the Stipulation contemplated a scenario where the parties would contribute to their children’s college expenses, subject to certain limitations. The court found, therefore, that the husband should contribute to the college expenses of the parties’ oldest child, who was already attending college. However, it determined that ordering contributions toward the younger children’s college expenses was premature.

Finally, regarding life insurance, the court stated that the Stipulation requires the husband to maintain a life insurance policy for the benefit of the children, but the wife alleged the husband failed to provide proof of compliance. As such, the court ordered the husband to provide evidence he was maintaining a life insurance policy as stipulated.

Meet with an Experienced New York Child Support Attorney

Pursuant to New York law, parties are permitted to enter into stipulated settlement agreements that define their rights to child custody and child support in divorce actions, and in most instances, the courts will enforce such agreements. If you have questions about how a divorce may impact your parental rights and obligations, it is smart to meet with a lawyer as soon as possible. Ksenia Rudyuk is an experienced New York child support attorney who can assess the facts of your case and help you take the steps necessary to protect your interests. You can reach Ms. Rudyuk by calling 212-706-2001 or using our online form to arrange a meeting.

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