Post-Secondary Educational Support

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The PA Supreme Court is about to speak on another family law matter. This time, the court is going to return to the issue of college payments and child support. At the end of September, the Court granted allocator to hear the issue of whether or not voluntary payments for a child’s post-secondary education can be included in a calculation of child support .

Previously, the guiding case law on this issue was Horst v. Horst, a PA Superior Court case that held that a parent’s voluntary payments for their child to attend a post-secondary school (in this case it was college, but it equally applies to technical programs) should not be considered as a means of reducing child support payments for minor children. The Court stated in Horst, “a parent must sacrifice to support or maintain minor dependent children while he is not required to sacrifice to send his older children to college or post-high school training.”

In the case pending before the Court, Mickman v. Mickman, the PA Superior Court held that the post-secondary payments could be used as a credit in child support calculations to be offset against future support arrears for Father’s minor children. The attorney for Mother argued that this holding was contrary to the ruling in Horst, while attorney for Father, whose arguments convinced the Superior Court that the past college payments should be allowed to be used to reduce his child support arrears, argued that Horst was distinguishable because it dealt with a child from a previous marriage and it dealt with direct child support payments, not arrears.

The issue before the Supreme Court concerns whether or not post-secondary support for adult children can be used as a “credit” against future support payments for his minor children. Child support is determined by statutory guidelines, which take into account each party’s income, expenses, and other support obligations. The statute sets out a specific support calculation, but the court can deviate from the guidelines as long as they specify why on the record. In Mickman, the Superior Court’s decision fundamentally rests on the support deviation for the educational expense being reasonable and within the discretion of the trial court.

The issue of child support being able to take into account post-secondary educational payments could have huge implications in future Allegheny County child support cases. Contact our experienced team of Allegheny County child support attorneys to discuss your case today!