In what is viewed as a rare change to the way family matters are handled in New Jersey, on January 19, 2016, Governor Christie signed S-1046/A-2721 into law. This law, commonly known as the Child Support Termination Law, establishes the age of 19 as the age when a child support and/or medical support obligation will end. While the age of majority in New Jersey is still the age of 18, the legislature has acknowledged that many children, at 18 years of age, have not yet completed a high school education. There are certain exceptions to the termination at 19, however. First, child support can terminate prior to 19 if the child marries, enters the military, or if there is a court order emancipating the child.
Child support can continue beyond the age of 19 if there is a different age specified in a court order, or if the custodial parent submits a “Request for Continuation of Support” form with required attachments proving the child is still in high school, is enrolled full time in college (or other post-secondary education program), or has a physical or mental disability. For the last circumstance, that disability must have been determined by a federal or state governmental agency and the disability must have existed prior to the child turning 19. A doctor’s note is simply not enough to show a disability under this statute.
The law further states that child support may not continue beyond the child turning the age of 23. For any circumstance where a custodial parent wants support to continue beyond the age of 23, the custodial parent may petition the court for an order for another form of financial maintenance. This is not considered child support however, and is not enforceable or monitored through the Probation Child Support Enforcement Unit.
While the effective date of the law is February 1, 2017, it applies to past, current and future child support orders and obligations. If back child support (arrears) is owed when the child support terminates, the non-custodial parent still is responsible for paying those arrears and enforcement of the arrears can continue.
For many families, this new law may be confusing, as there are certain obligations of the custodial parent that are not recurring. For example, once proof is provided that a child is enrolled in higher education, there is not a continuing obligation that the child continues to be so enrolled. Accordingly, it is still helpful to have a family law practitioner review your particular case and how the new law will affect your child’s support going forward. Should any of our readers have any questions in this regard, I would encourage you to contact this office for an appointment. Also, as a practical tip, to ensure that all notices and informational updates are received from Probation, please confirm that the Child Support Program has your most current mailing address, cell phone number and email address.
Written by: Jonathan Z. Petro, Esq.