New Law Concerning Emancipation and Termination of Child Support
By Snyder & Sarno on February 26, 2016
On January 19, 2016, Governor Christie signed S-1046/A-2721 into law. The effective date of the new law is February 1, 2017, and it applies to all NJ child support orders (i.e., child support orders issued prior to, on, or after the effective date). The new law does not apply to child support provisions contained in orders or judgments entered by a foreign jurisdiction and registered in New Jersey for modification or enforcement pursuant to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act.
Generally, the new law establishes 19 as the age when a child support obligation will end (by operation of law), but allows for child support to continue up to age 23 for cases in which the child is: (1) still in high school; (2) attending full-time college, vocational or graduate school; (3) disabled; or (4) a court order or judgment provides otherwise (as to the obligation to pay support). The new law also provides for the termination of the obligation to pay child support by operation of law without a court order (before reaching the age of 19) on the date that a child marries, dies, or enters the military service.
Notwithstanding the supposedly “automatic” nature of the termination, much of the new law deals with establishing a procedure for the termination of child support; particularly, in those cases where child support is being paid through a probation department or state agency. For those cases in which child support is paid directly, reliance upon motion practice will necessarily continue.
According to NJ Child Support.org, for families that currently have a child already over the age of 19, child support will end on February 1, 2017 (rather than on the child’s 19th birthday), as the new law is phased in. If support is being paid through probation, a Notice of Child Support Termination (“Notice”) will be sent out 180 days before the dependent’s 19th birthday and will contain information on how to request a continuation of child support beyond the date the child reaches 19. A second Notice will be sent at least 90 days prior to the proposed termination date, as the new law requires that both parents receive “at least two written notices of a proposed termination of child support.”
Opportunity to Respond to Written Notices of Termination & Extension of Child Support beyond the age of 19
In response to a Notice, the custodial parent may submit a written request to continue child support beyond 19 years of age based upon one of the enumerated factors; specifically: (a) the child is still enrolled in high school or other secondary educational program; (b) the child is a student in a post-secondary education program, and is enrolled for the number of hours or courses the school considers to be full-time attendance during some part of each of any five calendar months of the year; or (c) 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 child support. Alternatively, a custodial parent may file a motion with the court seeking to extend the obligation to pay child support beyond the date the child reaches 19 due to other exceptional circumstances. Of course, if a Judgment of Divorce (JOD) or support order already specifies an end date other than the child’s 19th birthday, the custodial parent should send the JOD or support order to the probation department in response to receipt of a Notice. In which case, NJSupport.org states: “this date will stand and you will not be permitted to request an administrative continuation of support.”
If no continuation of child support is requested or granted, the order of support will end, as stated by operation of law, on the child’s 19th birthday, and both parties will receive a new Order reflecting this change. If the court finds that the custodial parent established sufficient proof to continue the child support beyond the date a child reaches 19, the child support obligation will continue. In such case, the court is directed to issue an order establishing the prospective date of child support termination.
A parent responsible for paying child support who disagrees with the court’s decision to continue child support beyond the date the child reaches 19 or who otherwise desires to modify or terminate the child support obligation may, at any time, file a motion with the court seeking relief from that obligation.
Two important things to note about the “Automatic” Termination
If back child support is owed at the time of a termination of support, support will continue to be collected at the rate previously collected for support and arrears immediately prior to the termination, until the arrears obligation is satisfied in full.
End of Child Support at Age 23
Finally, under the new law, child support ends definitively at age 23. A child beyond 23 years of age may seek a court order requiring the payment of other forms of financial maintenance or reimbursement from a parent as authorized by law; and a parent or child, may also seek, due to exceptional circumstances, including but not limited to, a mental or physical disability, another form of financial maintenance for a child who has reached the age of 23.
If you have an issue with child support, contact the skilled matrimonial attorneys at Snyder & Sarno, LLC. The attorneys at Snyder & Sarno are experienced in handling cases where the parties share children. Call us today at (973) 274-5200.
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