an idea that will help people, and in this case, children?
— Rod Blagojevich
Isn’t it ironic to whose judgment we often entrust most precious and vulnerable members of our society – our children? Just look above. The laws and statutes in New York State appear easy. After all, there is a simple formula with child support percentages which judges in Family Courts usually plug into their computers to make sure that the correct number pops out. This number is meant to quantify how much money your child needs for food, clothing and shelter. And then there are the extras. Does your son need a tutor to prepare for a specialized school entrance exam? Does your daughter exhibit a special talent and should parents contribute to extra ballet classes? Then the next question arises, – can you afford to pay? And what about college? In a recent decision, where a divorce agreement between the parties was silent on the issue of college costs, a judge required the father to pay 85% of the child’s college expenses based upon the cost of SUNY (State University of New York). The appellate court agreed with the decision, which was based upon a rationale that both parents were college educated, could afford to pay and their daughter was performing well in college. However, the court held, that the judge erred in failing to offset the father’s the child support payments against his contribution to college expenses.
Reiss v. Reiss(2008 N.Y. Slip Op. 09234)(Nov.21, 2008).
The moral of the story? Make sure that your settlement agreements now (even if the child is 3 years old at the time of your divorce) include a college expense provision and that the issue of whether child support would continue to be paid during the child’s college years is appropriately addressed in the agreement. Otherwise, you are relying on the state of the law 15 years from now as well as a future judge’s state of mind.