Virginia Legislators Kill Bills to Mandate Child Support for Adult College Students

Virginia legislators recently killed bills to extend child support to adult college students. The bills would have required a non-custodial parent to make payments to the other parent while their adult child is attending college. A number of states have such laws, but legislators in Virginia voted the bills down after receiving an avalanche of angry e-mails and phone calls from their constituents opposing the bill.

The bill was killed by the House of Delegates Courts of Justice Committee in an voice vote on January 22 to strike the bill from the docket. It was killed this legislative session by the Senate Courts of Justice Committee, which voted 13-to-1 to shelve the bill indefinitely on February 1. Only Senator Roscoe Reynolds (D-Martinsville) voted to keep the bill alive.

The U.S. Supreme Court has never decided whether it is constitutional to make divorced parents pay child support for adult children, even though married parents have no such obligation. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down such a requirement in Curtis v. Kline, 666 A.2d 265 (1995), rightly reasoning that it was irrational discrimination that violated the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. But the Oregon Court of Appeals upheld such a requirement. In many states that have such mandates, lawyers have simply failed to challenge them, which is mystifying given lawyers’ duty to zealously represent the interests of their clients.

I and legal commentator Walter Olson earlier noted that such laws have unforeseen bad consequences, such as (1) forcing parents to support children who are disrespectful and abusive toward them, and whom they have no parental control over, or (2) forcing parents to make payments to their ex-spouse who was once the custodial parent, rather than directly to their child or the child’s college, thus actually reducing the child’s ability to attend college.

The Virginia bills drew negative attention from journalists and commentators, like the Richmond Times-Dispatch‘s award-winning columnist A. Barton Hinkle, syndicated columnist Amy Alkon, and criminal-justice expert Radley Balko.

We wrote earlier about the bizarre aspects of divorce law and child support in Maryland and Virginia.