Maria and John divorced when their daughter was three years old. John has kept up with his monthly child support payments for the past 15 years. With his daughter turning 18 in a few months and heading off to college in the fall, John knows that he will contribute to his daughter’s college tuition and room and board costs. But what about those monthly child support checks he’s been sending Maria? Do they automatically stop once his daughter is considered an adult in the eyes of the law?
Under current New Jersey family law, there is no fixed age when child support stops. What can happen is that once your child turns 18 and/or becomes financially independent, either you or the other parent can file a motion with the courts requesting that your current support order be terminated or adjusted/modified. Based on information presented, the court will decide if the child still needs a support from the parents. If the child is deemed to no longer require support, this is known as “emancipation.” Generally, the court presumes that children under 18 need support from their parents, unless certain factors are present. After age 18, the courts may decide that support is needed throughout the college years or longer, especially in the case of a child with special medical or health needs.
What’s going to happen in your case? First, carefully check over your divorce settlement and child support order. For some parents, support orders may terminate automatically if your divorce decree specifies a date, age or circumstance when support stops. If you are in the middle of a divorce and creating a support plan, it’s best to talk to your divorce attorney about including language in your divorce settlement about what will happen to child support once your child becomes a legal adult.