For many unmarried parents in the state of Maryland, the end of their relationship brings on a wide range of legal concerns. Chief among these is the breakdown of the care and custody of their shared children. Reaching a child support agreement is one of the most pressing needs that a couple will face as the parties go their separate ways. It is imperative to ensure that the agreement is carefully considered and adequately detailed, in order to avoid challenge in the years to come.
One high-profile case has led to a great deal of debate concerning parental responsibilities in regard to child support. The case centers on a child support order that stated that the parents would split the cost of a law degree should their adult daughter decide to pursue graduate work in that field. However, when the time came, the young woman's father cried foul, and the issue went before a court.
The man claimed that the agreement between he and his daughter was that he would pay for half of her law degree, if she attended the university where he is employed and began her studies within a year or two following graduation. In the end, she applied and was accepted to a far more expensive school, three years after receiving her undergraduate degree. However, a court ruled that because the child support agreement did not clearly outline those conditions, the father will be held responsible for half of the estimated $225,000 cost of her law degree.
As this case exemplifies, it is not sufficient to have a verbal agreement or "understanding" concerning child support obligations. Each Maryland parent must ensure that the agreement that they sign is an accurate representation of their intent to provide support to their child, even after that child has reached the age of maturity. Failing to do so leaves the court little choice but to interpret the document exactly as written, as was the case in this recent decision.
Source: nj.com, NJ court orders divorced father to pay half of daughter's pricey law school expenses, Jeff Goldman, March 5, 2014