Parents who are either currently going through a divorce or were divorced many years ago often ask “at what point do I no longer have to pay child support for my children?” It surprises some parents to learn that there has been no specific age at which time parents are no longer obligated to pay child support.
Parents who are already divorced should review their settlement agreement which usually spells out the conditions which must be met for the child to be deemed “emancipated.” It is at the time of emancipation when parents no longer are financially responsible to support their children.
A recent change in New Jersey law provides more certainty. As of Feb. 1, 2017, unless otherwise specified in a court order or judgment, the obligation for a parent to pay child support stops without a court order on the date of a child’s marriage, death or their entry into military service.
The provision that applies to many families is that the obligation to pay support for a child shall also stop automatically when a child reaches 19 years of age, unless:
- another age for the end of this obligation is provided for in a court order, which age shall not go beyond the child’s reaching 23 years of age;
- a formal written request is submitted/filed with the Family Court to continue support for the child, by the parent with whom the child primarily resides, before the child reaches 19 years of age; or
- the child for whom support is being paid does not reside with such a parent as a result of placement through the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (formerly the Division of Youth and Family Services, DYFS).
If a parent receives such a formal written request as noted above, he or she can object to the termination of child support. To do so, the parent shall submit a request, in writing, with documents to show proof of all of the following circumstances which may apply:
- their child is still attending high school; or
- their child is enrolled a post-secondary education institution or program and is attending the school on a full-time basis; or
- their child suffers from a physical or mental disability, as determined by a governmental agency, and that the disability existed before the child turned 19 which renders the child in need of, and entitled to, continuing child support.
In providing these written requests to the court, a parent must also propose a future “good faith” date when they believe such child support should end.
Even with these recent modifications to the law, a custodial parent also retains the right to file an application with the Court to extend the time to have child support paid beyond the child’s 19th birthday in the event there are exceptional circumstances. It will then be the Court’s prerogative to determine if and to what extent such circumstances will be controlling.
Child support orders are generally modified when a child goes to college. The obligation to support a child does not cease at that time but child support is factored in as a component of the child’s overall needs.
Each child's individual circumstances will affect the timing of their emancipation. Even with the revisions to the law, careful consideration must be given to all factors affecting the child and his or her needs. Our firm prides itself on treating each matter individually and advocating on behalf of our clients and their children to achieve the most equitable result.
Lindabury’s Family Law Group has decades of experience negotiating, enforcing and amending child support obligations. We provide the full range of divorce and family law services and are easily accessible from our Westfield New Jersey office. Call today to schedule a consultation with James McGlew at 908-233-6800.