Effective February 1, 2017, the new child support law went into effect. It applies not only to future cases, but to prior cases as well.
Under the new law the date of termination of child support has been changed from age 18 to age 19. However it is not automatically terminated when the child reaches age 19.
If you have provided for a different termination (emancipation) date in your divorce settlement agreement or a prior court order, or you make a written request to the court to seek a continuation of child support beyond the child 19th birthday of if the child is receiving support through the DCP&P, child support may continue past the child’s 19th birthday but under no circumstances past the child’s 23rd birthday.
If you need to petition the court to continue to receive child support past the child’s 19th birthday, you may do so for the following reasons: either your child is still in high school or your child is in full-time college or other post-secondary program or your child has a disability which existed before the child turned age 19.
However the process is much more complicated and certain time requirements must be met. Cases are treated differently if they are direct pay as opposed to a probation case. Direct pay cases place the burden on the payor to cease support and the parent receiving support to make an application to the court. Probation cases will send a notice to the parent receiving child support advising of the automatic termination. If your settlement agreement or prior order provided for the continuation of child support after graduation from high school so long as the child was in college full-time, your application may be less complicated. However if it does not, different arguments may need to be made.
There are also issues as to how the automatic termination of child support affects younger children covered by the same child support order. If your child support order did not allocate a certain amount of child support to each individual child (which most don’t), the entire child support amount could be terminated when the oldest child attains age 19. Again an application will have to be made and a new child support award will have to be determined for the younger children.
There are also issues which arise when the child attains the age of 23 but yet has a permanent disability which existed prior to the child attaining the age of 19. An application will need to be made for what is called “financial maintenance” as child support will automatically terminate. Financial maintenance is not enforceable through the probation department. This carries with it numerous problems of collection for parties whose child is disabled and in need of continued financial support.
So what does this all mean? Well there are many aspects of the new law not addressed in this article as the new law covers many areas. Every case is different and must be reviewed on a case by case basis. Your particular facts will need to be looked at in conjunction with the new law, your settlement agreement (if you have one), any prior court orders and the child support guidelines.
The law is new and its interpretations have yet to be experienced or decided by New Jersey courts. If you have any issues regarding child support and continuation of the same or you are entitled to termination of child support, please contact The Law Office of Eileen M. Foley, ESQ, LLC for a consultation. It is imperative for you to understand the law and the consequences it will have on your particular case.