In the past, children in New Jersey did not become emancipated for purposes of child support simply by reaching the age of 18. Rather, a child reaching 18 established prima facie evidence of emancipation, and it required further investigation to determine whether child support obligations should be terminated. In sum, there was no automatic termination of child support upon a child reaching a certain age. Governor Christie changed this on January 19th, 2016.
During the past summer, a bill passed the New Jersey Senate 31-2, and in December of 2015, that same bill passed in the New Jersey Assembly 68-0, with one abstention. The bill (S1046/A2721) provides that when a child reaches 19, the child will become emancipated for the purposes of child support, and the child support obligation will become terminated, with a few exceptions. Those exception are: (1) if a court order specifies another age for the termination of child support (not to exceed 23); (2) a written request seeking the continuation of child support is submitted to the court by a custodial parent prior to the child reaching 19; or (3) the child receiving support is in an out-of-home placement through the Division of Child Protection and Permanency.
The law also provides that a child or parent may petition the family court to extend child support beyond the age of 19 in the following instances: (1) the child is still enrolled in high school or other secondary educational program; (2) the child is participating full-time in a post-secondary education program; or (3) the child has a physical or mental disability, as determined by a federal or State government agency, that existed prior to the child reaching the age of 19 and requires continued support. A custodial parent may also, due to exceptional circumstances as approved by the court, seek to extend the obligation of child support as another form of financial maintenance past age 23. Additionally, if the court grants an order to continue child support, it shall also include in its order a prospective future date upon which the child support will terminate.
The law will be effective February 1, 2017, and will affect all previous and future child support orders. If you have a Judgment of Divorce or any other child support order that specifies a termination date that is beyond your child turning 19, that date will still be respected, but the child support will be terminated by the new law once your child turns 23.
This new statute makes fundamental changes in how child support termination works in our state. The attorneys at LaRocca, Hornik, Rosen, Greenberg, & Patti are only one call away from answering any of your child support questions.