Don Sinkov of explains how child support payments get complicated when a child is living at a college dorm.A dollar-for-dollar credit against your child support obligation for room and board at college – we have all heard about it and understand it’s done pretty much all the time. But is it fair?

When addressing basic child support (food, clothing and shelter), mandatory add-ons, and discretionary expenses in the Settlement Agreement, we say, “While there is no statute directing you to pay for your child’s college education, something like a SUNY clause, capping your contribution to education at a State University of New York tuition rate, is an obligation most parents and courts are comfortable with.”

“So if I’m paying for room and board at college, why should I pay for room and board at home? Isn’t that paying twice for the same thing?”

Generally, most attorneys will say, “Double shelter allowance. My client should get a reduction in child support for their share of room and board expense at college. Why should my client have to pay room and board at the home where the child is not living when they are living at college?”

I understand the thinking behind it, but typically, even though the child is at college, the custodial parent is still providing housing for the child. There are fixed costs for keeping the child’s space at home. The custodial parent still has to heat the house or apartment, pay utilities, and pay rent or a mortgage. So yes, the child isn’t there all the time, but if you have a child in college close by, you will notice them and their very large piles of laundry coming in on the weekends, holidays and vacations, so they are continuing to spend time at home. And even if they only come a couple of times of year and summers, except for a reduction in your grocery bill, the costs are the same.

Is it fair? I understand the thinking behind the credit, but if you have to pay for the space whether the child is there or not, is a reduction really appropriate?

If you have any thoughts on this, I would appreciate your comments in the “Leave a Reply” box below. So let’s hear from all you custodial parents out there getting a reduced amount in child support.

About Don Sinkov

Don Sinkov Your Divorce Mediator Westchester County, NY Putnam County, NY Phone: (914) 588-6258 eMail: