Wednesday, February 22, 2017
RICCI N/K/A MAURA MCGARVEY VS. MICHAEL RICCI AND CAITLYN RICCI A-1832-14T1/A-2409-14T1
RICCI N/K/A MAURA MCGARVEY VS. MICHAEL
RICCI AND CAITLYN RICCI
We reversed Family Part orders requiring divorced parents to pay college tuition costs to their estranged daughter. The child left her mother's home and the parents agreed she was emancipated. Thereafter, the child sought to intervene in the matrimonial action, and the judge concluded the child was "unemancipated" for purpose of college costs, without review of the divergent facts in support of and in opposition to emancipation. He ordered payment of "de minimus" community college costs; a different judge extended this obligation, after a summary proceeding.
Whether a child is unemancipated is a threshold legal determination to a parent's obligation to pay college costs. The required parent-child relationship is one of interdependence: the child's right to support and the parents' obligation to provide payment are inextricably linked to the child's acceptance and the parents' measured exercise of guidance and influence. A finding of emancipation recognizes a child's independence from a parental influence and eliminates the obligation for support.