If you are under 18, generally your domicile will be the same as your parents’ domicile because, as a minor, you are not legally capable of establishing an independent domicile unless you are married or have obtained a judicial decree of emancipation.
If a minor has lived for five or more consecutive years with relatives (other than parents) who are domiciled in North Carolina and if the relatives have functioned during this time as if they were personal guardians, the minor will be deemed a resident for tuition purposes for the enrolled term commencing immediately after the five years in which these circumstances have existed. Under this provision, a minor deemed to be a resident for tuition purposes immediately prior to his or her eighteenth birthday will be deemed a legal resident of North Carolina for the required 12 month period when he or she turns eighteen; provided he or she does not abandon North Carolina legal residence.
Minors Claimed On North Carolina State Tax Returns
Under a special provision of the law, if you are a minor (under the age of 18) and your parents are divorced, separated, or otherwise living apart, you may be considered a resident of North Carolina for tuition purposes if:
- You abide in North Carolina with your custodial parent, and both you and your custodial parent have established and maintained domicile in North Carolina in accordance with the General Rules mentioned above, even though the custodial parent may not claim you as a dependent for income tax purposes.
- Your non-custodial parent has established and maintained domicile in North Carolina in accordance with the General Rules mentioned above; is entitled to claim you as a dependent on a North Carolina state income tax return; and does, in fact, claim you as a dependent. If your non-custodial North Carolina parent has not claimed you as a dependent for the 12 months immediately before the beginning of the term, you can be considered a resident only for the number of months you were properly claimed as a dependent by that parent.
If you qualified under this provision while you were a minor, but you turn 18 before enrolling, you won't lose the benefit if:
- After turning 18, you act like a bona fide North Carolina resident (this means that any action you take might demonstrate an intent to establish domicile, such as registering to vote, should be done in North Carolina or not done at all); and
- You enroll in a North Carolina institution of higher education not later than the fall term following completion of the educational requirements for admission (usually the fall term after high school graduation).
Minors Whose Parent(s) move(s) to North Carolina
If a parent comes to North Carolina ahead of the rest of the family and established domicile while a spouse and children remain behind to sell the house, finish out the school year, etc., it can be difficult to determine the minor child's domicile. We consider the following factors in reaching a decision in these cases:
- the extent to which the spouse has begun the process of moving to North Carolina;
- what percentage of the child's financial support is contributed by each parent;
- by whom and where the child is claimed as a dependent for tax purposes;
- which parent exercises day-to-day care, supervision and control over the child;
- how soon the child will turn 18;
- which parent the child is living with; and
- whether there are strong incentives for the child to remain in his/her previous home state after both parents have moved to North Carolina.
NOTE: If spouse joins the parent in North Carolina and establishes domicile before the minor child turns 18, the child's domicile automatically becomes North Carolina, even if the child does not physically move to North Carolina at that time, but the child may not have 12 months of domicile before the beginning of the term in which he/she seeks to enroll.
Students Who Are 18 When Parent(s) Move(s) To North Carolina
When parents move to North Carolina after the child turns 18, the child does not automatically acquire North Carolina domicile. This is because at 18 he/she is an adult, and adults must establish domicile on their own by physical presence and intent as explained earlier. The adult child will have to come to North Carolina, take steps to evidence his/her domicilary intent, and wait 12 months before qualifying as a resident for tuition purposes.
For example, if parents move to North Carolina while a 19-year old child is enrolled in college in another state, the child will not become a North Carolina resident until he/she has physically come to North Carolina and established domicile. Since residence for tuition purposes requires 12 months of domicile, if the child first comes to North Carolina in November for Thanksgiving holiday, it is not possible he/she can have 12 months of domicile in time to enroll as a resident for the following fall term.