In Pennsylvania, the duty to support a child ends when the child has reached age 18 or graduated from high school, whichever comes later. Although this is now the law in Pennsylvania, it was not always this way. Previously in some cases, Pennsylvania parents were required to provide for their child while that child was in college. Then, in the case Blue v. Blue in the PA Supreme Court, the court held that a court could not direct parents to pay “post-majority support” (or support after the child reached 18) unless the child was not capable of supporting him/herself through employment.
Many children in PA who were receiving child support from their parents while in college were greatly affected by the court’s decision in Blue. The PA General Assembly then passed a bill which expressly provided courts with the right to order payment of post-secondary educational expenses when the parents of the child were divorced or separated. This was later challenged, however, as the law was treating children in divorced/separated families different than those who were in an intact family. Then, in the case of Curtis v. Kline in the Supreme Court in 1994, this bill was challenged on equal protection grounds as it was discriminating based on family status. This statute was then struck down as unconstitutional as a result of the Curtis decision.
How does this affect current child support orders?
Consent orders for post-secondary educational support are considered enforceable agreements, meaning that parents can agree to support their child(ren) through college via mutual agreement in their support case. This must be put in writing and agreed upon by the parties involved, as the Superior Court has held a verbal agreement to provide for college support for a child to not be enforceable. (Mackay v. Mackay). However, absent a written agreement, a child support order will terminate upon the child reaching age 18 or upon his/her high school graduation (whichever is later).
If you would like to speak to our Pittsburgh Child Support Attorneys regarding support for your child(ren), contact our office today!