Does College Attendance Have To Be “Full-Time”?

Other than modification of previously ordered support, I have not seen any issue litigated more post-judgment (after the divorce) than emancipation of a college-age child.  The reason seems obvious – the cost of maintaining a child in college and until graduation can be daunting.  Many parents of college students have sought that the Courts adopt a bright-line rule regarding college attendance – either the student is full-time or the student is deemed emancipated.

However, a recent appellate decision has re-emphasized the soft-spot that the Courts have for children who have survived their parents’ divorce. In an unpublished decision, the Court affirmed Bergen County Judge Lisa Perez Friscia’s decision that it would be unfair to ignore the “totality of circumstances” of the child’s college attendance.  The child may not have been “full-time” each and every semester, but when including summer classes with the balance of the child’s workload, the child satisfied reasonable expectations of a college workload.

The bottom line is that litigants should not fixate on the individual pieces of the college picture that suit their personal position on emancipation.  Before jumping into a motion to have a child declared emancipated, it is important to step back and view the totality of the childs efforts over time.


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