Throughout New Jersey and elsewhere, parents are reveling in their children receiving their diplomas. No doubt whether it means the finish of high school or college, there is something lackluster about graduations gone virtual. Meanwhile, the subject of child support often enters the picture. Does it continue or will it now terminate?

As a New Jersey family law attorney with offices in Livingston and Jersey City, I can tell you that the determination focuses on emancipation. Your divorce papers may already signify the age your child no longer needs to be under your care and support.  Even if your child support order does not define when payments should end, the law provides some guidance.

Age aside, consider some other factors that would end child support obligations. If a child dies or marries, payments are no longer due. Additionally, entry into the military service constitutes emancipation. All these events trigger the termination of support payments on the date they occur.

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Graduation from high school does not necessarily mean that a parent’s financial obligations end. By the same token, payments do not automatically stop when your child celebrates his or her eighteenth birthday. That said, you should know what could happen at age 19.

Unless your court order says differently, child support obligations could inevitably terminate when your son or daughter reaches age 19. If you are the custodial parent, it is up to you to submit a written request to the court asking that it continue.

If your payments are made and received through the Probation Division, both parents will receive notification from the courts regarding the proposed termination date. Six months or 180 days before the support is due to stop, the court will send you information.  The documentation will also include a form for the custodial parent to request continuation beyond the child’s nineteen birthday.

A second notice will go out 90 days prior to the proposed termination date with two exceptions. If the custodial parent’s request for continuation or a new date ending support payments has been determined, the Probation Division will not send the second notice. A parent who objects to the continuation may bring the matter to court for review.

Custodial parents who believe their child support should continue are required to justify their request. Education holds a great deal of weight as far as the court is concerned.  Children still enrolled in high school or other secondary educational programs are not considered emancipated.

Pursuit of post-secondary education also matters as far as ending child support obligations. The law specifically addresses students in post-secondary programs. However, the number of hours or courses must equate to full time attendance during some part of each of any five calendar months of the year.

A custodial parent may also ask that child support continue if a child has a physical or mental disability that existed before they were nineteen. The court also considers what it calls “exceptional circumstances” when it comes to ending support.

The coronavirus crisis brings rise to some prospective issues. Children who have reached the age of 19 and not gone on to school are expected to be self-sufficient. Unless graduate school is next in the plan, college graduation signifies the start of a career.

Will the courts consider the effects of the pandemic as “exceptional circumstances” and allow for the continuation of support obligations? In the current state of uncertainty, it remains to be seen. The fact that parents themselves may be out of work further compounds the issue.

It appears that the onus remains on the custodial parent to request continuation. However, a parent making the payments should consider a proactive approach. In either case, you may want to connect with an experienced family law attorney to review your particular circumstances. I offer prospective clients a one-hour complimentary consultation to discuss their issues.

Your child support order may already provide guidance as far as when the payments should stop. However, the law says that it cannot extend beyond the date that child turns 23. And, if the payments are made through the Probation Division, notice will go out from them at least 90 days prior to termination.

Children over the age of 23 are not prevented from seeking financial assistance from their parents. Likewise, custodial parents of children suffering from a mental or physical disability may ask for conversion of child support payments to another type of financial maintenance.

If you are already feeling a bit challenged by shutdown orders and the like, you are not alone. Most parents want what is in the best interests of their children. In these trying times, it is easy to see how issues regarding child support could create more stress. I would be more than pleased to discuss your options.  Please feel free to contact me by telephone or send me an email.