Child Support

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court to Hear if Tuition for Adult Kids is Child Support

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to hear argument on whether or not college payments for adult children can be used as a credit to offset future child-support payments owned to minor children.

The justices said they will hear argument in Mickman v. Mickman, which involves a dispute over whether a trial court properly assessed child support and alimony pendente lite payments against Richard Mickman, who has five children, some of whom were minors at the trial’s outset.

The allocatur grant is limited to whether a child-support obilgor can receive a support credit, used to offset against the future support owned to minor children, when the credit represents college expenses paid for adult children.  The court will also address whether the Superior Court’s decision in the case conflicts with the decision the Superior Court rendered in the 1991 case Horst v. Horst.

Elaine Mickman, in her appeal to the Superior Court from the Montgomery County Court of Common Please’ final decree in divorce, argued, among other things, that her ex-husband should not have received a $550,000 credit for the payment of college tuition and additional expenses for two of the couple’s children.  She contended that the trial court did not conduct the required analysis, that the items considered for the credits were not included in the child support guidelines, and that the court created a windfall to Richard Mickman at her expense.

According to Judge Sallie Updyke Mundy, who wrote the Superior Court’s memorandum opinion, Elaine Mickman said that to “give [Richard Mickman] credit for these items and remit all arrears under these circumstances is an improper “double dip”.

In his cross-appeal, Richard Mickman also said the trial court erred in its calculation of child support.  However, he said the court failed to apply to his retroactive child-support payments new child-support guidelinge3 that went into effect in May 2010.

In its 51 page unpublished memorandum, the Superior Court sided with the trial court, ruling that the trial court performed an adequate six-day hearing regarding both parties’ expenses and that the rail court properly outlined its reasons for deviating from the child-support guidelines.

“Despite the appellant’s averments, the trial court properly considered the guidelines, in conjunction with the evidence presented and determined the appropriate amount of support,” Mundy said.  “The court has the discretion to deviate from the guidelines as long as the deviations are supported by the record.”

Horst determined that a parent is required to, if necessary, sacrifice to support minor dependent children, but is not required to sacrifice to support sending an older child to college or post-high school training.

The case involved a father who claimed that a court failed to consider his voluntary contribution toward his son’s tuition at Drexel University when making a n award for support to the minor dependent children.   The court found that father’s claim to be without merit.  The court said that continuing the older child’s education cannot diminish the father’s primary duty to provide for the dependent children before “reaching into the financial pool to educate the older child.”

In summation, the court found that the minor-child support takes precedent over college support and the basic needs of the minor dependent cannot be reduced to allow for college support when funds are not adequate for both.

This Family Law Firm will further blog the decision of the precedent setting case once decided by this state’s highest court.

Reference: Max Mitchell: Pennsylvania Law Weekly (October 8, 2013) “Justices to Hear if Tuition for Adult Kids is Child Support”

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