Your child has reached the “age of majority”, the legal age established under state law, which an individual is no longer a minor, and he or she is officially considered to be an adult. In most states, that age is 18 or in cases where the child is still in high school the age of majority may extend beyond 18. With this adult age, come adult things like voting, legally signing a contract, purchasing a home and the list goes on. In addition to all these newfound rights come, a couple of newfound issues like the end of the requirement for the non-custodial parent to pay child support. A couple of things we often hear at Kevin Hickey Law Partner is 1) higher education and who is responsible for paying and 2) back child support owed.
In Arkansas, the age of majority is 18 unless the child is attending high school or a certified high school equivalency program, child support is required to continue to be provided during the period the child is actually attending high school or the equivalency program, but only until the child reaches age 19. Arkansas, however, does not have a statute or case law upholding parents to a duty to college support without a prior agreement. Once the child reaches majority, the legal duty of the parents to provide support ends. Which brings about the question of who is responsible for the child’s higher education. Technically, one could say that the child is responsible since he or she is an adult, but most parents want to contribute to their child’s education. Honestly, a formal college support agreement should have been made when everything else pertaining to the divorce and child support were decided upon. That is why it is imperative to hire an attorney that has experience in this area. We suggest a contract between both parents that agree on the responsibility for college costs and details of payment. One option is that both parents agree upon a certain amount to contribute to a college fund each month or each parent agrees to pay up to a specified amount of the college education.
Another area of confusion for divorced parents is who fills out the FASFA® (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). The FASFA® should be completed by the custodial parent and based on that parent’s income plus any child support and spousal support payments. If the custodial parent is remarried, the new spouse’s information will go onto the FASFA® as well. Keep in mind that the parent who claims the student as a dependent for tax purposes doesn’t have to be the same person listed as the custodial parent.
As for back child support, the child is still owed any missed payments even if he or she has reached the age of majority. Outstanding payments are still collectible as long as the parent files a court order. Many people often feel that it is pointless to file a court order if the debtor doesn’t have the money to pay anyway, but think of filing as legally acknowledging that the parent owes the money. The court order is making it official that the money is owed to your child and any future money earned by the debtor can be collected and paid to the other parent for back child support. It is important to file in a timely manner as the Arkansas statute of limitations is five years past 18 for any arrears that have not been adjudicated. The state of Arkansas allows for interest of 10% per year on missed support payments and adjudicated arrears. For more information about child, support enforcement, check out our past blog.
Of course, an exception to the age of the majority rule is adult children with disabilities either mentally or physically. If the disability makes the child unable to support him or herself most states have adopted the rule that parents have a duty to support their adult disabled children. Arkansas law allows the court to require the continuation of support, past 18, for an individual with a disability in which the ability of the child to live independently from the custodial parent.
Our family law experience can help you with all your child support needs from the beginning like developing a formal college support agreement all the way through the age of majority and collecting any back support payments. Kevin Hickey Law Partners is here to help you address issues before they happen. Call us today.