If you receive or pay child support in New Jersey, a new law may seriously affect those payments.
Currently, New Jersey law provides no automatic termination of child support payments. Once a child turns 18, the onus is upon the paying party to seek termination of support. While there is a presumption in favor of emancipation once a child turns 18, Bishop v. Bishop instructs that the recipient can overcome that presumption by showing that the child is “not beyond the sphere of influence and responsibility exercised by a parent.” Beginning February 1, 2017, the tables are turned.
Under the new law, child support will terminate automatically when a child reaches the age of 19 unless (a) a time for termination has previously been specified in a court order, or (b) the receiving parent petitions the Court for an extension prior to the child turning 19.
There are two important factors here. First, as stated, any petition to extend child support must be made before the child’s 19th birthday. Once that birthday passes, the window to extend support is closed. Second, success of that petition is not guaranteed. The receiving parent will have to prove that (1) the child is still in high school, (2) the child is a full-time secondary student (college, trade school, etc.) or (3) the child has a mental or physical disability that manifested before the child’s nineteenth birthday, and requires continued support.
Admittedly, the thresholds are not difficult to surmount- the key is being sure to making application before the child turns 19.
And of course, the deadline is irrelevant if you have a court order, or a settlement agreement incorporated into a Final Judgment of Divorce, that specifies the end of the child support obligation. However, the new law also provides that even if you have such an order, support will terminate when the child reaches the age of 23.
The new law goes into effect February 1, 2017. If you have a child that is already over 19, child support will terminate on that date.
So what are your action points? First, check any court order or divorce judgment that you may have to determine whether a timeline for child support has been previously stipulated. If not, mark your calendar six months in advance of your child’s nineteenth birthday so you have plenty of time to file your petition. And if you have a child who is already 19, you need to consider making an application now.
Need help? Call Pickus & Landsberg for a free consultation- we’re here for you.