Termination of Child Support

Under previous New Jersey law there was a rebuttable presumption of a child's emancipation, upon a child reaching the age of 18. A child reaching the age of 18 established "prima facie" evidence of emancipation. The presumption of emancipation was frequently rebutted based upon the specific facts of a given case. The central question in determining whether emancipation is appropriate was whether the child at issue moved beyond the parents' "sphere of influence" and obtained an independent status of his/her own. In those cases where emancipation and termination of child support was appropriate the party seeking termination of child support was obligated to obtain a Court Order terminating the support obligation.

Under the new statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:17-56.67, child support terminates automatically by operation of law, and without the necessity of seeking a formal Court Order, upon: a child reaching the age of 19; entering military service; getting married; or passing away. However, the statute provides certain grounds justifying a continuation of child support beyond a child's 19th birthday. The new law provides that child support will terminate automatically upon a child reaching 19 unless:

  • Another age for termination of child support is specified in a Court Order or Settlement Agreement;
  • A written request seeking continuation of child support is submitted to the Court by the custodial parent prior to the child reaching the age of 19; or
  • The child receiving support is in an out-of-home placement through the Division of Child Protection and Permanency in the Department of Children and Families.

The statute also identifies circumstances under which a custodial parent may seek to continue child support beyond a child's 19th birthday via a written request. Those circumstances include:

  • The child being enrolled in high school or other secondary educational program;
  • The child being a student in a post-secondary education program and enrolled for the number of hours or courses the school considers to be full-time attendance;
  • The child having a physical or mental disability as determined by a federal or state agency that existed prior to the child's reaching the age of 19 and requires continued child support; or
  • There exist some other exceptional circumstances as may be approved by the Court.

Although any of these events may result in a child support obligation continuing beyond a child reaching the age of 19, the new statute implements a firm cap terminating child support upon a child reaching the age of 23.

There are, however, at least two circumstances under which the firm cap of 23 years of age may be extended. One, the statute provides that a child who is beyond the age of 23 can still seek an Order requiring the payment of other forms of "financial maintenance" or "reimbursement" from a parent, so long as those maintenance/reimbursement payments are not payable or enforceable as actual child support. Two, the statute provides that a Court, upon the application of a parent or child, may convert a child support obligation to another form of financial maintenance for a child who has reached the age of 23 based upon "exceptional circumstances" which include, but are not limited to, a mental or physical disability.

If you are paying or receiving child support it is important that you understand your rights and responsibilities under the new child support statute. Seek the advice of an experienced matrimonial attorney who can explain those rights and responsibilities to you in a clear and concise manner.

Contact Wernik & Salvatore today to discuss your options