Rising costs of living and years spent pursuing post-secondary education have resulted in many children living with their parents well past the age of 18. When families are intact, they can work together to reach a financial understanding, but when the parents are divorced, it raises questions about child support.

In New York State, you and your former spouse or partner are legally obligated to support your child until they turn 21, unless that child is emancipated. (In other words, married, in the military, or otherwise supporting themselves financially.) After that, in the absence of a written agreement, child support stops, even if your child is a full-time university student who is not yet earning their own income.

What about college tuition?

Although child support typically ends at the age of 21 many students are still in school at that time, so some parents agree to extend child support to the age of 22, provided the child is still attending college or university. This is a voluntary arrangement, but once documented and signed, it is legally binding.

Under the New York Domestic Relations Law and Family Court Act, courts will order parents to contribute to tuition costs, but the amount payable depends on the child’s best interests and the circumstances at hand. Factors that judges have taken into account include the academic abilities of the child and the parents’ ability to pay.

In many cases, divorced parents come to their own agreement on how they will split the cost of tuition, but sometimes the topic isn’t even addressed until the children reach college age. Parents will often limit their obligation to a share of the cost of a State University of New York education. This limit, more commonly known as the SUNY cap, doesn’t necessarily prohibit the children from going to a private school or out-of-state university. It simply means that their education will be capped at the SUNY rate.

What about disabled children?

In New York state, disabled children are legally adults once they turn 21. In the absence of a written agreement that states otherwise, parents are no longer responsible for the support of a child over 21, even if they are disabled, except under very limited circumstances. At this point, however, the state can step in by providing services to assist with that person’s care, so that a caretaker parent is not unfairly burdened.

Child support inspires a lot of questions when parents separate or divorce in New York. Your family law attorney will help you create an agreement that ensures support for as long as it is reasonably necessary so that your children have access to the opportunities they need to thrive.

Jayson Lutzky is a Bronx child support and divorce lawyer with over 36 years of legal experience. He offers free in-office initial consultations. Call 718-329-9500 to set up an appointment.