In New Jersey, child support is not automatically terminated when a child reaches the age of majority. Parents can file a termination request when the child turns 18, but child support is often continued for children who are attending college. Children who are unable to gain total independence due to a mental and/or physical disability also continue to receive support on an indefinite basis. There has been some confusion over this issue because of a child support termination law that was passed earlier this year. According to the law, basic child support obligations will end at the age of 19, but support may be continued up to age 23 for children who are disabled, or attending college, vocational school or graduate school. The law is set to be effective as of February 1, 2017, but there are still numerous questions that will need to be addressed on a case-by-case basis.
One of these questions is whether a parent should continue to support a child who has a full-time job. One of the qualifying conditions for being considered an adult or emancipated minor is full-time employment. The rationale is that children who are fully employed should be able to support themselves, which would move them beyond the parental sphere of influence and responsibility. Unfortunately, the issue of when a child truly becomes independent is not so cut and dry. If your child is attending school while working full-time, then it's very likely that the courts will continue the support order. Let's face it; full-time hours simply means anything above 25 hours per week. If your child is working 30 hours a week for $8 an hour, it's unlikely that he or she could afford tuition and all their other bills without some level of financial assistance.
Speaking of tuition, that's another source of contention between many divorced parents and their children. Although some students manage to pull it off, balancing a full course load with a full-time job is extremely challenging. It's not uncommon for these students to eventually drop courses, transfer to the local community college, or enroll in online courses that can be completed at home. This is frustrating to parents who have paid a lot of money towards an expensive college education, especially at the graduate level. Since the aforementioned forms of education are considerably cheaper than tuition and board at a college or university, a parent might expect a working child to cover these costs on their own. New Jersey family courts, however, have typically continued support orders for educational costs, regardless of the type of education.
As you can see, emancipation is an incredibly complex legal concept that goes far beyond reaching the age of majority. That's why it's so important to speak to an attorney about all the possible expenses that may come up your during your child's life. For more information on your child support rights and legal options, please speak with the experienced family law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.