The Principles of Child Support in New Jersey
The guiding principles of child support in New Jersey are that children should not be economic victims in a divorce. Instead, children are considered entities who are entitled to share in their parent’s income, and in New Jersey parents have a continuous duty to support their children until they are emancipated.
NJ Courts hold that children are emancipated when they have moved beyond the sphere of influence and responsibility exercised by a parent, and have obtained an independent status of their own. This is a fact-sensitive determination where a judge considers, among other things:
- the child’s needs, interests, and independent resources;
- the family’s reasonable expectations; and
- the parent’s financial ability to provide.
The Presumption of Emancipation
When a child reaches the age of eighteen, or when he or she graduates from high school, whichever occurs last, he or she is presumed to be emancipated under N.J.S.A. 9:17B-3. At that point the obligor can apply for termination of child support.
If the custodial parent is seeking to have child support continue past the child’s eighteenth birthday, he or she has the burden of overcoming that presumption. How can the presumption of emancipation be overcome? One way is when it can be proven that the child remains a full-time student. In that case, the child is still a dependent and child support must continue.
How Is Child Support Calculated in NJ?
The court considers the information the parties submit on the Child Support Guidelines worksheet. The New Jersey Department of Human Services has created an online child support calculator that is free and easy to use – click here. A Child Support Handbook is also available in both English and Spanish – click here.
So When Does Child Support End in NJ?
The answer is, unfortunately, it depends. It could be when the child turns 19, or if the custodial parent files a motion to extend child support and prevails at the hearing, it could be four years later when the child turns 23, or, in the case of disabled children the support obligation can continue after age 23. There are more factors to consider than a mere age limit. In any case, if back child support is owed when the child support terminates, the non-custodial parent is still responsible for paying that off and the order will still be enforced for the arrears.
Child Support Is Terminated Administratively Under Certain Conditions
Child support in New Jersey, that is paid through the Probation Department, is automatically terminated without the need to apply and without further court order or judgment if:
- A child turns 19;
- A child joins the military;
- A child marries;
- A child dies.
In other words, absent a court order extending support past age 19, the support obligation is administratively terminated if any of these conditions are met, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:17-56.67.
How Do I Know When Child Support Ends?
The Probation Department will mail custodial and non-custodial parents a Notice of Proposed Child Support Obligation Termination 180 days before the child’s 19th birthday. This very important Notice contains the date the support is set to terminate, information on how the custodial parent may request a written continuation of child support, information on how the custodial or non-custodial parent may provide a court order already specifying when support should terminate and how the amount of child support may change.
If there is no response to the first notice, a second Notice of Proposed Child Support Obligation Termination will be sent out 90 days later. If no continuation is granted, support will end as of the child’s 19th birthday (or other date specified on the notice). Both parties will receive an updated court order reflecting this change.
The Custodial Parent Can Have Child Support Extended Up to Age 23
A court order entered as a result of a subsequent motion to extend child support can extend the support obligation until a child turns 23, for example, if the child is still attending high school or is attending college full time.
If a child drops out of high school, or graduates from high school and does not continue to attend school full time, this could be a reason an obligor would ask the court for an order terminating child support.
In “Exceptional Cases” Child Support Could Continue Past Age 23
If a child has a physical or mental disability and because of that requires parental support past the age of 23, the law allows the child or their parent to request child support be converted to another form of financial maintenance. If the child is receiving Social Security because he or she is disabled, this created a strong presumption in favor of continuing some form of support. This will require the custodial parent to file a motion to extend the child support obligation.
If you are a custodial parent who is receiving child support through Probation and are seeking to extend the child support obligation, click here for the forms you need if you were married to the obligor, and click here for the forms you need if you and the obligor were never married. If these forms seem confusing and you need help, let our experienced family law attorneys help you get the result you need. Contact Katherine K. Wagner to schedule your consultation.