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Child Support and Emancipation

Until recently, New Jersey child support had no statute in place that automatically terminated child support once a child reached a certain age. However, on January 19, 2016 New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a new NJ child support emancipation law that requires child support to terminate upon a child’s 19th birthday, with some exceptions. This law went into effect last year, on February 1, 2017.

Who Does the NJ Child Support Emancipation Law Apply to?

Anyone who is paying child support as of February 1, 2017 will be required to continue paying that support until the dependent child turns 19. Therefore, if the dependent child’s 19th birthday is on June 1, 2017, the parent will still be required to pay for that child until that date.

Exceptions to the New Jersey Child Support Emancipation Law

The law will allow the continuation of child support children until they reach the age of 23 years old in some case, particularly:

  • if the child is a high school student;
  • if the child is a student elsewhere, such as in a college or vocational school, provided they are enrolled full time;
  • if the child struggles with mental or physical disabilities;
  • if the parties otherwise agreed or contracted that child support payments would exceed the legal time period;

If a court order, particularly a judgment of divorce or other family law action, requires the payment of child support after the child turns 19, then the new law will not affect that order.

Continuing Child Support

Child support will end automatically on the child’s 19th birthday, unless one of the above exceptions applies. However, the parent who has been receiving support can request the court to continue ordering support even beyond the child’s 19th birthday. They will need to show evidence of the factors listed in the paragraph above, such as the child being enrolled in a secondary school full-time.

Under the new statutory scheme, the State of New Jersey will send notices of the impending child support termination 6 months prior to the termination date. At that time, the parent receiving child support may request a hearing or make a motion in court to continue the child support payments in certain situations. If a judge agrees, the court has the authority to order the child support payments to continue until a specific date upon which the child support will terminate, or a date on which the circumstances leading to the continuation will be reviewed.

If the divorce decree has a specific date other than the child’s 19th birthday, then that date will prevail, and the parties will not be able to request a continuation of support beyond that date.

Although the following case occurred in 2014, it is a good demonstration of the NJ court’s maintaining precedence of an original court order over the new law. The court ruled that the terms of the divorce decree were valid and ordered the father to pay half his daughter’s law school expenses – to the tune of $112,000.00. When the couple had divorced, they agreed to split the cost of their daughter’s tuition if she decided to attend law school and kept at least a ‘C’ average. After the divorce, the father and daughter became estranged. None of this mattered- the judges determined that the agreement was to support the child, regardless of timeline or choice of school. Let this case be a lesson in getting specific in final decrees and marital settlement agreements regarding child support payments.

Child Support Arrears

If the obligor parent is behind on their child support payments, then the new law will not affect these arrearages. That parent will still owe their child support beyond their child’s 19th birthday once the law is in effect.

The new NJ child support emancipation law will affect many parents the currently pay or receive child support. If you have questions about how your child support may change, please call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at 201-845-7400 for a consultation.

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