Support of Estranged Adult Children
There has been a lot of discussion lately about paying child support to adult children who are estranged from the support payor. Should a father pay support to a child who is attending university, and who refuses to have a relationship with the support payor? Are adult children required to communicate a minimum disclosure regarding their studies?
Smith v. Smith addresses the issue of support for adult children in circumstances where the children cut off their relationship with the support payor. Without much analysis, the court simply terminated the children’s support.
A more thorough discussion of the topic can be found in Caterini v. Zaccaria, where Justice Pazaratz quoted a paper delivered by Justice Corbett, and the following comments as authority:
- (a) Contrary to certain recent literature, there has not been “growing judicial recognition” that the quality of the relationship should have a bearing on child support.
- (b) Courts have been willing to impose a few specific responsibilities on adult support recipients, and may properly do so, but not conditions that include maintaining a social relationship with a parent.
- (c) The statutory basis for taking the quality of the child-parent relationship into account is dubious.
- (d) There is appellant authority permitting the court to place some weight on the parent-child relationship, but that authority is more ambiguous than trial and motions court decisions suggest.
- (e) On the current state of the law, there seems to be a discretion to take this factor into account, though few courts do, and fewer have found it a significant factor in a support decision.
- (f) The better view is that if conduct is ever relevant, it should only be in truly egregious cases of misconduct by a child against a parent.
As has been commented by others, a review of case law in the area suggests that the over riding concern on the part of courts is the child’s need. If the child needs the support, the weight given to the quality of his or her relationship with the payor spouse is less important. If the support is not needed the quality of the parent child relationship is given more importance.