Governor Christie Signs Bill That Will Change Current Child Support Law
What Impact Will this Have on Your New Jersey Child Support Case?
In August 2015, I published an article about a bill approved by the New Jersey Senate allowing for automatic termination of child support when the child reaches age 19. The New Jersey Assembly also approved the bill and, on January 19, 2016, Governor Christie signed it into law.
Under the new law, child support will automatically terminate without the need for a court order when the child reaches 19 unless: (1) another age for the termination of child support (also known as emancipation) is specified in a court order; (2) a written request seeking the continuation of child support is submitted to the court by a custodial parent prior to the child reaching age 19; or (3) the child receiving support is in an out -of-home placement through the Division of Child Protection and Permanency.
If the child support recipient wishes to continue receiving child support after the child turns 19, the recipient may request a continuation of child support for the following reasons: (1) the child is still in high school; (2) the child is a full time post-secondary education student; or (3) the child has a physical or mental disability, as determined by a federal or State government agency, that existed prior to the child reaching the age of 19 and requires continued child support.
Under the previous law, there was no automatic termination of child support. Instead, once a child turned 18, a presumption arose in favor of emancipation. However, the child support recipient, could overcome that presumption by showing that the child is not ‘beyond the sphere of influence and responsibility exercised by a parent[.]” Bishop v. Bishop, 287 N.J. Super. 593, 598 (Ch. Div. 1995).
Previously, the burden was on the person paying child support to request that the child be emancipated at age 18. Under the new law, the burden has shifted to the child support recipient to request that child support continue beyond the child reaching age 19.
When child support payments are made through the Probation Department, the Probation Department will be required to give the parents two notices prior to terminating child support. The first notice will be sent 180 days before the child’s 19th birthday and will include instructions for seeking the continuation of child support in appropriate circumstances. If no continuation of child support is requested, the court will send another notice 90 days prior to the child’s 19th birthday.
In cases where the party owing child support makes direct payments to the recipient, the onus will be on the payor to be aware of the law and cease making payments accordingly.
The new law also provides that any child support arrearages that have accrued prior to the date of the termination will remain due and enforceable.
In cases where the child support order does not specifically allocate support to multiple children, the court will not automatically recalculate child support once a child is emancipated. Instead, the parents must agree to have child support recalculated to take the emancipation into consideration, or one of them must make an application to the court.
However, if the child support order does allocate child support for multiple children the court will automatically adjust the amount of the child support obligation to reflect only the amount allotted to the remaining unemancipated children.
In order to allow the Administrative Office of the Courts enough time to prepare all of the necessary forms, the new law does not become effective until February 1, 2017.
According to NJChildSupport.org, if you have or will have at least one child age 19 or older as of February 1, 2017, you can expect to receive a Notice of Child Support Termination on or around August 1, 2016.
For families that currently have a child already over the age of 19, child support will end on February 1, 2017, rather than on the child’s 19th birthday.
If your Settlement Agreement, Judgment of Divorce or Child Support order specifies a child support termination date other than the child’s 19th birthday, that date will control. However, regardless of the parents’ Agreement or previous court orders, under the new statute, the obligation to pay child support will terminate by operation of law when a child turns 23 years old. When there are exceptional circumstances, the statute provides that the parent or child may make an application to convert child support to another form of financial support once the child turns 23.
It is important for all New Jersey residents who pay or receive child support to understand the new law and the consequences it will have on his or her particular case. Salvaggio Law Group LLC devotes its entire practice to New Jersey divorce and family law matters, including child support. If want to talk, call us at (973) 455-1220 or fill out the Contact Form on our website.