Beginning February 1, 2017, the New Jersey Child Support Statute, frequently called the “Termination of Child Support Law” will commence and it will not only apply to new Orders for Child Support but will also apply to all child support orders issued prior to or after its effective date. The goal of this law is to place a heavier burden on the custodial parent and reduce what in practice has been generally always the burden of the non-custodial parent who is paying support. In other words, until February 1, 2017, in practice the burden to emancipate a child absent consent has fallen on the non-custodial parent to file a motion to emancipate a child and terminate their child support obligation. As of February 1, 2017, the law provides a presumption that child support terminates as of the date a child turns the age of nineteen (19) without a court order and it will be upon the custodial parent to file a motion and establish as basis for support to continue past the age of nineteen (19). Overall, the law is more payer-friendly than the existing case law established by the New Jersey courts as of this date.
The termination of child support law provides, in relevant part:
- Unless otherwise provided in a court order or judgment, the obligation to pay child support shall terminate by operation of law without order by the court on the date that a child marries, dies, or enters the military service. In addition, a child support obligation shall terminate by operation of law without order by the court when a child reaches 19 years of age unless:
- another age for termination of the obligation to pay child support, which shall not extend beyond the date the child reaches 23 years of age, is specified in a court order;
- a written request seeking the continuation of child support is submitted to the court by a custodial parent prior to the child reaching the age of 19 in accordance with subsection b. of this section; 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 Family.
Of greatest significance is that the termination of child support law provides for a presumption that child support will automatically terminate without the necessity of a court order at the age of 19 and it is not the custodial parents obligation to establish a basis for child support to continue. For those orders which are administered through probation there will be a notice to all parties that child support shall terminate and in response to this notice a custodial parent may submit a written request, on a form which will be provided by the Administrative Office of the Courts, with supporting documentation inclusive of providing a projected age of when support should terminate for that child.
As to those circumstances that would support extending child support beyond the age of 19, the statute essentially permits the extension consistent with the current law by permitting the extension of support if a child is still enrolled in high school or other secondary education program; is a student in post-secondary school and enrolled in school with enough credits to be considered full time, or has a physical and mental disability as determined by a federal or state agency.
While, the practical implications on the courts and motion practice are yet to be seen, it is important for practitioners (as well as litigants) to get familiar with this new statute immediately and anticipate as many possibilities, current and future, to ensure the best outcomes for our client’s and their children.