On February 1, 2017, new child support emancipation laws took effect in New Jersey. Prior to that date, New Jersey law set no particular age at which a child became emancipated (not subject to the parent’s control and not entitled to parent financial support). Under the new laws, known as the New Jersey Emancipation Statute, N.J.S.A. § 2A:17-56.67 to 56.73, a child is emancipated at age 19, and, therefore, child support generally ends at that time. However, a parent may request a continuation of child support up to age 23.
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?
The 2017 NJ child support emancipation laws provide that a child support obligation ends when a child marries, dies, enters military service, or reaches age 19; however, a parent of a child approaching the age of emancipation in NJ may request that the obligor continue to pay child support beyond that age. A child support obligation may be continued beyond the child’s 19th birthday if any of the following apply:
-A court order specifies another age for terminating child support 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 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 termination when the child reaches age 19, even if the order was entered before the new statute came into effect. 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 continuation of 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 obligation 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 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 beyond Age 19?
Child support may be extended up to the child reaching age 23, but child support 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 date for the termination of child support as long as the date is on or before the child reaches age 23.
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 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.
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.