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NJ Child Support Emancipation Laws: FAQs in 2017

On February 1, 2017, new child support laws took effect in New Jersey and the same have caused confusion among family law practitioners and clients. A common misconception is that the new law automatically terminates child support at the age of 19, unless a parent requests the same to continue up until a maximum age of 23. This is partially incorrect, as the Statute deals only with the termination of child support obligations through Probation and not the termination of child support obligations in general or the issue of emancipation.

New Jersey law still does not set an exact age at which a child becomes emancipated (not subject to the parent’s control and not entitled to parent financial support). Each case is fact specific and there is still no automatic cutoff date. Under the new laws, known as the Termination of Obligation to Pay Child Support, N.J.S.A. § 2A:17-56.67 to 56.73, the probation department (the department in the Court that monitors and enforces child support orders) will automatically close an account at 19 unless there is a request to continue monitoring. However, Probation will not keep the account open past a child’s 23rd birthday no matter the circumstances. This does not mean that the obligation to pay child support ends.

Questions we are often asked about the NJ child support emancipation laws are below.

When Is a Child Support Obligation Terminated under the NJ Child Support Emancipation Laws?

An obligation to pay child support under the NJ Child Support laws terminates when a child is emancipated. A child is considered emancipated when they move beyond the sphere of influence and responsibility exercised by a parent and obtains an independent status on his or her own. When the Court enters an order emancipating the child, the obligation to support that child terminates. The 2017 NJ child support termination laws provide that the probation department will cease monitoring and enforcing a child support order (will close the probation account) when the child reaches the age of 19. This does not mean that the obligation to pay support automatically terminates. The probation department will leave the account open beyond the child’s 19th birthday if any of the following apply:

-A court order specifies another age for terminating child support enforcement but not beyond the child’s 23rd birthday;

-Before the child reaches age 19, a parent submits a written request seeking to continue child support monitoring through probation beyond the child’s 19th birthday; and

-The Division of Child Protection and Permanency in the Department of Children and Families has placed the child receiving support in an out-of-home placement.

Which Child Support Orders Are Subject to Termination at Age 19 under the NJ Child Support Emancipation Laws?

All New Jersey child support obligations, regardless of when they were ordered, are subject to probation terminating the account when the child reaches age 19, even if the order was entered before the new statute came into effect. Again, the statute concerns termination of the obligation through the probation department, not whether the child is emancipated. Even if probation closes the account, the parties’ settlement agreement or prior Court Orders that dictate the terms of child support remain in effect, and a party may still have to pay. Only child support orders from another state’s court but enforced in New Jersey are not subject to the new law.

How Is Child Support Terminated under the NJ Child Support Emancipation Laws?

For all child support obligations administered by the Probation Division, the Division will provide a notice to both parents 180 days before the child’s 19th birthday. The notice will indicate that the child support obligation will terminate upon the child reaching age 19 and will explain how a parent may request the probation department to continue monitoring the obligation up to age 23.

If the Division receives no response, a second notice with the same information will be sent to both parents 90 days before the child turns age 19. If neither parent requests an extension of the child support obligation before the child turns age 19, the probation account will close and the obligation (through probation’s eyes) will automatically terminate on the child’s 19th birthday.

How Can a Parent Continue a Child Support Obligation beyond the Child’s 19th Birthday?

A parent may request the continuation of a child support obligation beyond the child’s 19th birthday using the information and form provided by the Probation Division in the notice discussed above. Continuation of the child support obligation up to the child’s 23rd birthday is allowed if any of the following circumstances apply:

-The child is enrolled in a secondary school (such as high school) or a secondary program;

-The child is a post-secondary student enrolled for the number or hours or courses considered to be full-time by the institution during some part of each of any five calendar months of the year; and

-The child has a physical or mental disability as determined by a federal or state agency, the disability existed before the child reached age 19, and the child requires continued child support.

Even if none of these circumstances apply, a parent may request that the court issue an order continuing child support through the probation department beyond age 19. Such a continuation of support may be granted in “exceptional circumstances” and cannot extend support beyond the child’s 23rd birthday.

How Long Can Child Support Be Continued Through Probation beyond Age 19?

Child support may be monitored and payed through probation up to the child reaching age 23, but the child support account terminates on that date. If the child requires continued financial assistance beyond age 23, the child or the parent receiving child support may apply to have the child support obligation converted to another form of financial maintenance.

Can a Parent Oppose the Continuation of Child Support beyond Age 19?

A parent who has not requested the continuation of child support may oppose the other parent’s request to continue child support beyond the child’s 19th birthday.

Is a Child Support Arrearage Erased When the Child Reaches Age 19?

The NJ child support emancipation laws provide that a child support arrearage is not erased when the child reaches age 19. Instead, upon the child reaching age 19, the child support obligor must continue to pay the child support obligation until the arrearage is paid in full.

Does a Parent Have to Wait until a Child Reaches Age 19 to Terminate a Child Support Obligation?

A parent does not have to wait until the child reaches age 19 to terminate a child support obligation. A child’s parents may agree to a different date for the termination of child support as long as the date is on or before the child reaches age 23. For example, if a child does not enter college full-time after high school, child support may end before their 19th birthday.

How Is Child Support for One Child Terminated if the Support Obligation Is for More than One Child?

If a child support obligation covers more than one child and one of the children reaches age 19, the termination of support for the 19-year-old child is handled differently depending on whether the support obligation is allocated or unallocated. An allocated child support obligation specifies the amount of support to be paid for each individual child, while an unallocated child support obligation requires the child support obligor to pay a single amount for two or more children.

If a child support obligation is allocated and one child reaches age 19, the child support obligation through probation is terminated as to that child, but the obligor must continue to pay the amounts allocated for each of the remaining children under age 19. If a child support obligation is unallocated and one of the children reaches age 19, the statute requires the child support obligor to continue to pay the existing unallocated support obligation amount.

What Does the Statute NOT do?

The new statute does not:

  1. Apply to child support provisions contained in orders or judgments entered by a foreign jurisdiction and registered in New Jersey for modification or enforcement.
  2. Prohibit either party from filing a motion at any time to address child support related issues.
  3. Require or relieve a parent from paying support or other costs while a child is enrolled full-time in a post-secondary education program.
  4. Extinguish arrears that have accrued prior to the date of probation terminating the account. The same shall remain due and enforceable.
  5. Does not mandate child support to be paid until the age of 19.

We understand that the new child support laws can be confusing. If you need advice about the NJ child support emancipation laws and how they affect you, contact me, Elizabeth Rozin-Golinder, by filling out my Contact Form or calling (732) 810-0034. I've dedicated my career to practicing family law right here in New Jersey, and I would be honored to share my experience with you.

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