If you are a parent who is paying child support, you may have heard about the child support termination bill that was signed by Governor Christie on January 19, 2016. The bill, which will become effective as of February 1, 2017, sets firmer guidelines on the age and circumstances for terminating child support. As you are probably aware, child support in New Jersey does not automatically terminate at age 18. Furthermore, there is no specific age at which child support ends, since many adult children need continual financial support for things like medical care and college expenses. Child support can also end earlier than age 18 if the child marries, enters the military or becomes legally emancipated through some other means.
The new law sets a general age cap of 23 for when child support ends, although receiving parents must petition the courts to extend financial support beyond the age of 19. If your support order is handled by the Probation Division, the receiving parent will receive a notice of termination 6 months before your child turns 19. Along with information on how to request an extension of child support, the notice will advise that the support amount may be reduced due to your child's age and/or changing circumstances. In addition, child support will automatically terminate upon the child dying, getting married or entering into military service.
Setting age caps on child support has always been controversial, since there's no universal age at which every child becomes independent. Nowadays, it's common for children to pursue Masters and Ph.D degrees, which means they may need some level of support long into their 20s. Another problem is that significant changes in the economy have made it difficult for even college graduates to afford a place of their own. It can also be argued that had the parents stayed together, there would be no discussion on when they should stop supporting their children.
While the law has its downsides, it does clarify some of the grey areas in the current laws, which will hopefully reduce the number of support hearings that are taxing to the parents as well as the legal system. It also stipulates that children still in high school, enrolled full-time in a post-secondary education program, or with a serious physical or mental disability cannot be cut off from support regardless of their age. However, any support order extended beyond the age of 19 must contain provisions for when the support will end. This is more efficient than the current system, in which either parent or the child would need to file another petition in order to terminate or continue the support order.
Although it won't be effective until next year, you should start learning about this law as soon as possible, especially if your child will be turning 19 after February 1, 2017. For more information about New Jersey's child support termination law, please speak with the family law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.