New Jersey’s new emancipation statute is taking effect on February 1, 2017 and it will impact when and how child support orders come to an end. The new law will apply to all child support orders issued prior to or after its effective date.
This law establishes 19 as the age when a child support and/or medical support obligation ends. The new law allows, however, for child and/or medical support to continue up to age 23 for cases in which the dependent is still in high school; attending full-time college, vocational or graduate school; is disabled; if the parties reached a separate agreement; or, if continued support was granted by the court.
By providing greater certainty as to when child support will end, the law is now more payor-friendly. The statute also alters the rebuttable presumption that child support terminates when a child turns 18.
Termination of Child Support
The new law provides that, unless otherwise indicated in a court order or judgment, the obligation to pay child support shall terminate without order on the date a child marries, dies or enters into military service. Child support shall also terminate automatically when a child reaches 19 years of age unless:
- another age for such termination is specified in a court order, which shall not extend beyond the date the child reaches 23 years of age;
- 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
- the child receiving support is in an out of home placement through the Division of child Protection and Permanency in the Department of Children and Families.
In response to a notice of proposed termination of child support, a custodial parent, in the following circumstances, may submit a written request with supporting documentation and a projected future date when support will terminate seeking the continuation of child support beyond the date when the child reaches age 19:
- the child is still enrolled in high school or other secondary program;
- the child is a student in a post-secondary education program and is enrolled for the number of hours or courses the school considers to be full-time attendance during some part of each of any five calendar months of the year; or
- the child has a physical or mental disability, as determined by a federal or state agency that existed prior to the child’s reaching the age of 19 and requires continued child support.
Note that all “Request for Continuation of Support” forms must contain a future date in which child support would end and that date must be before the child’s 23rd birthday. The proposed end date must be supported by any documentation provided. For example, if the request for continuation is based on the child remaining a high school student, the proposed future termination date should be the child’s expected high school graduation date.
The “Request for Continuation of Support” form and acceptable supporting documentation must be received no later than 45 days prior to the termination date. The due date will be specified in the notice. Any request form received past that due date may not be considered and the requesting party will have to file a petition with the court to request a continuation of support.
A custodial parent may also file a motion with the court seeking to extend the obligation to pay child support beyond the date the child reaches 19 years of age due to exceptional circumstances as approved by the court.
If a court orders the continuation of child support beyond the date when the child reaches age 19, the order also must also provide “the prospective date of child support termination.” If the payor parent disagrees with the court’s decision to continue child support, he or she may file an application seeking relief from the obligation.
If your Judgment of Divorce (JOD) or support order specifies a termination date other than the dependent’s 19th birthday, that date will stand and you will not be permitted to request an administrative continuation of support. However, you still may receive a termination notice and be asked to send in a copy of the JOD or order containing the termination date.
If you receive an updated order for continued support and wish to oppose it, you may file an application or motion with the court. If there are younger children on the order in addition to the 19-year-old (or older) child(ren), parents may file an application or motion with the court to adjust the child support amount.
Probation Notices of Child Support Termination
Matters involving child support obligations administered through the Probation Division will require that both parents receive written notices of a proposed termination of child support, each of which shall include information and the request form to facilitate the continuation of child support beyond the date when the child turns age 19. The first notice will be sent 180 days prior to the proposed termination date, and if there is no response to the first notice, a second Notice of Proposed Child Support Obligation Termination will be sent out 90 days before the dependent’s 19th birthday. If no continuation is granted after the second notice, the order of support will end as of the child’s 19th birthday. Both parties will receive an updated order reflecting this change
The second notice, however, shall not be required if a custodial parent’s request for continuation is pending or a new date of child support termination has been established.
If the child is already over the age of 23 or approaching his/her 23rd birthday or other court-ordered termination date, both parents will receive a “Notice of Child Support Obligation Termination” 90 days prior to the obligation termination date.
Any current case with a dependent between the ages of 19 and 23 will be sent “Notice of Proposed Child Support Obligation Termination” on February 1, 2017, with a termination date of August 1, 2017, not the child’s 19th birthday. If no response is received to the first notice and a termination date has not been modified by a court order, a “Second Notice of Proposed Child Support Obligation Termination” will be sent on May 1, 2017. If support is not continued, the child support obligation will terminate on August 1, 2017.
Any current case with a dependent age 23 or older will be sent a “Notice of Child Support Obligation Termination” on February 1, 2017. The termination date will be May 1, 2017, and not the child’s 19th birthday, regardless of the dependent’s actual age.
Age 23 as a limit
The new law provides that “the obligation to pay child support shall terminate by operation of law when a child reaches 23 years of age,” except that a child beyond age 23 can still seek an order requiring the payment of other forms of financial maintenance, or reimbursement from a parent, as authorized by law, so long as it is not payable or enforceable as child support.
All court-ordered obligations to pay or provide medical coverage will also end when the child support ends. However, custodial parents may file a motion or application to request that medical coverage be enforced until the child’s 23rd birthday. If not court ordered, either parent may voluntarily provide medical coverage for their child through their employer up until the age of 26 according to federal law and up until 31 under New Jersey law if certain conditions are met.
Unallocated Child Support for Two or More Children
The new law establishes that if there exists an unallocated child support order (one that does not specify the amount of support for each child) for two or more children, and the obligation to pay for one child terminates, the existing support obligation shall continue. If you have an unallocated order with a remaining child(ren) after an obligation is terminated, you are still responsible for paying the total child support amount plus arrears, if any, unless a different amount is ordered by the court. If you have an allocated order with a remaining child(ren) after termination, your support order will be adjusted automatically to deduct the amount of the terminated obligation.
If, however, the support was allocated — rather than unallocated — and support for one child terminates, the amount of child support for the remaining child(ren) shall be adjusted to reflect only the amount allotted for the remaining child(ren). Parties can also always resolve the issue of child support amongst themselves, rather than wait to see how the court will adjust the remaining amount due, to avoid the time and expense associated with litigation.
Arrears Existing at Termination
If back child support is owed when the child support terminates, the non-custodial parent is still responsible for paying that off and the order will still be enforced for the arrears.
Even though the obligation for current support ends, the case will remain open until the arrears are paid off. The noncustodial parent is still responsible for paying the recurring child support amount that existed prior to termination PLUS the arrears payback amount unless a different amount is ordered by the court.
Example: The non-custodial parent pays $75 per week in current child support and $25 per week toward the arrears. After receiving the “Notice of Child Support Obligation Termination” for his only child, there are remaining unpaid arrears. He now owes $100 per week arrears payback until the arrears are satisfied, unless the court modifies that repayment amount.
Impact on Intergovernmental Cases
The new statute shall not apply to child support provisions contained in orders/judgments entered by a foreign jurisdiction and registered in New Jersey for modification or enforcement under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), or any succeeding law that is substantially similar. UIFSA provides that child support ends according to the law of the State in which the order was established and cannot be changed by another state. This new support law applies only to child support orders established by New Jersey.
Support While in College
The law explicitly provides that it does not require nor relieve a parent from paying “support or other costs while a child is enrolled full-time in a post-secondary education program.”
Important Other Points
Any party may still seek to terminate child support for any reason other than those provided in the new law. Importantly, the law also confirms that it does not “prohibit the parties from consenting to a specific termination date for child support that does not exceed the date a child reaches 23 years of age, or to any other financial arrangements for a child that are not designated as child support, subject to the approval of the court.”
If you are paying or receiving child support and you have a child between the ages of 19 and 23, make sure that the Child Support Program has your current mailing address on file so that termination notices are sent to the correct address.