New Jersey Child Support and a Child’s Graduation from College– What You Don’t Know Can Really Hurt You
If you pay or receive child support in New Jersey, you are familiar with the term “emancipation,” which is when the duty of child support terminates.
One of the events that generally results in emancipation is a child’s graduation from college.
However, New Jersey also has an anti-retroactivity statute (N.J.S.A. 2A:17-56.23a), which prohibits retroactive modification of child support.
So, what if you don’t know that your child has graduated from college until well after the fact? Are you stuck?
No, you most certainly are not.
This issue came up recently in a New Jersey case called Doyle v. Doyle. The father filed a motion to have his 22-year-old son declared emancipated as of the date that he had graduated from college. While the mother agreed that the child was emancipated, she asserted that the father was not entitled to retroactive relief.
After the motion judge agreed with the mother, the father appealed.
The New Jersey appeals court reversed the motion judge’s decision.
As the appeals court pointed out, the motion judge forgot about the 1995 New Jersey appeals court decision in Mahoney v. Pennell.
In Mahoney, the New Jersey appeals court concluded that the limitation on retroactive modifications of child support obligations in N.J.S.A. 2A:17-56.23a does not apply when the support obligation relates to a child who has become emancipated.
The Mahoney court said that the underlying premise of a child support order is the existence of a duty to support. Where a duty of support no longer exists—as it did once the son graduated from college–there can be no child support due for the time period after that date.
Salvaggio Law Group LLC devotes its entire practice to New Jersey Family Law matters, including those related to child support and payment of college expenses. If you want to talk, please call us at 973-459-4927 or fill out the Contact Form on our firm’s website.