Paying child support for your older teen or college-age child, and wonder when your obligation will end? Find out what New Jersey’s new child support age cutoff law, taking effect in February 2017, could mean for you.
When can I stop paying child support? Is it age 18? Is it age 21? What if my child is in college? All of these are very common questions for parents who are currently paying child support for their kids. The answer is certainly not black or white and most definitely will depend on your unique set of facts and circumstances. When your child support obligation ends, however, is when your child is no longer in need of your financial support.
When a child is no longer in what has been called the “sphere of influence” of their parents, then the courts see that child as “emancipated.” Emancipation is the legal term for when a child moves beyond that sphere of influence and is now considered able to financially care for themselves. But when is a child seen as emancipated? A new law in New Jersey which will come into effect in February of 2017 is much more friendly to the parent paying the court-ordered support.
The new legislation outlines that child support will automatically end when a child reaches 19 years of age unless:
1. Another age for such termination is specified in a court order, but shall not extend beyond the child reaching 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 the age of 19; or
3. The child receiving support is in foster care through the Division of child Protection and Permanency formerly known as DYFS.
The legislation also states that the obligation to pay child support shall end without a court order on the date a child marries, dies or enters into military service.
These changes to the child support laws are significant because now it is no longer the burden of the paying parent to step forward and go to court to ask that their child be emancipated. In the past, child support would continue indefinitely unless and until the paying parent filed a motion with the court. Parents with children well into their thirties were still paying support because they were not aware they had to ask the court to find their child no longer needed their financial support.
The law does, however, protect children who are in college full-time and who still need financial support because the child support can extend to 23 if this is requested and if the judge grants it. Parents who receive a notice that their child’s payments are about to end can respond to the court and note that their child is still in high school, is in college full-time or that the child has a significant disability that warrants continued financial support. If the court grants continued support and the paying parent disagrees, that can file papers asking to be relived of the support obligation.
It is clear that the New Jersey legislature intended to adopt changes to the child support laws to perhaps level the playing field and remove an undue burden placed upon paying parents who may not have had the knowledge or resources to ask the court that their child be emancipated.
If you are paying child support and have questions regarding emancipation or if you have received notice that your child’s support will soon end, please contact us to schedule your consultation to discuss you specific case with one of our qualified family law attorneys.