It’s the first September in a long time that your child is not going back to school. Now that he or she is graduated from college, does this mean that you can stop paying child support?
Earlier in 2016, New Jersey adopted a new law regarding when child support ends in the Garden State. As always, once a child is determined to be emancipated from his parents, he or she is no longer in need of financial support from either parent. At that point, the child is seen as a full self-sufficient adult that is no longer under the “sphere of influence” of mom and dad. So how and when, does the support actually stop?
Under the new emancipation law that will come into effect in February of 2017, financial support for children shall also terminate automatically when a child reaches 19 years of age unless another age for the termination is specified in a court order. Either way, support shall not extend beyond the date the child reaches 23 years of age. 23 is usually the age at which a child is finishing up his undergraduate degree.
This is a significant departure from the earlier law. Before this change, parents paying support had the burden to go to the court and ask that their child be deemed emancipated and that their child support payments stop. This was a weighty burden, especially if the paying parent really did not have continual contact with the child. Knowing when and if a child actually completed school or if he or she left school proved to be difficult in some families. Now, the termination upon graduation from college or turning 23 years of age (whichever occurs first) will be automatic. The parent who has custody of the child receives notification that the child support will be terminated at age 19 and the burden is then on that parent to prove to the court why the support should continue. Some of the reasons why support should continue past 19 are: the child is still enrolled in high school, the child is a full-time student in college or the child has a physical or mental disability and requires continued support because of that disability.
Interestingly, if a court orders that child support should continue past age 19, the judge’s order must also provide “the prospective date of child support termination” or when it is anticipated that the child support will cease. But regardless of what happens between the ages of 19 and 23, if child support did continue, it will ultimately not continue past your child becoming 23 years of age. This is a firm cap on child support and because of this cap, child support cannot and will not continue.
The age cap on support took much of the burden from the shoulders of child support paying parents. There were frequent cases of children going into their 30s and beyond with parents still paying child support to the other parent. In some cases, the child was long out of the custodial parent’s home and living with their own families. Without paying parents taking the affirmative step of filing for emancipation of these now adults, support continued indefinitely.
If you suspect that your child is graduated from college and caring for themselves but you are still having your wages garnished or otherwise contributing support, contact your local probation department and speak to the caseworker handling the child support account. You may have to visit the courthouse where child support was initially established to get copies of all past court orders to see the status of the child support case. Bring copies of your file to a knowledgeable family law attorney local to your area to get further advice on how to proceed and what steps to take if needed.
If you are in need of advice or services regarding your current support matter, please contact us today to schedule your initial consultation with one of our experienced child support attorneys, qualified to handle all facets of support law here in New Jersey.