New Jersey’s child support laws are a bit more complex than other states, where child support typically ends once the child turns 18 or graduates from high school. Child support laws here are predicated on the belief that both parents have a continuing duty to provide support for their children, who are entitled to share in the household income and should not have to suffer economically because of a divorce.
At a minimum, New Jersey law requires that child support be paid until a child is at least 18 and not in school. Once a child turns age 18, either parent may file a motion if they believe the child is emancipated, which in New Jersey means that a child is no longer reliant on his or her parents for financial support. If a child is over 18 and still reliant on financial support from parents, the support obligation may continue. Effective February 1, 2017, the statutory age of termination of child support is 19.
Typically, divorcing spouses can come to an agreement about when child support should end — for example, upon graduation from college, marriage, or full-time employment. Without such an agreement, the Court will decide when support ends.
New Jersey family courts typically favor parents providing financial support for college if they are financially able to do so. In making this decision, a Court may consider several factors, including but not limited to:
- The parents’ ability to pay college expenses
- The child’s financial resources
- Availability of financial aid
- The child’s aptitude for a specific educational path
If a parent believes that child support should end because the child has become self-reliant, the parent can file a petition with the Court asking it to declare emancipation. In making an emancipation decision, the Court will consider the needs and resources of the child as well as the financial ability of the parents. If there is no court order specifying a date, age or circumstance when support stops, child support may terminate automatically when the child turns 19.
A custodial parent may request that support continue if they can prove that the child is still in high school, enrolled full-time in post-secondary education or physically or mentally disabled. If there is an existing Judgment of Divorce (JOD) or support order that specifies a termination date other than the dependent’s 19th birthday, that date is still valid and must be honored so long as it does not exceed the child’s 23rd birthday.
Nonpayment of child support is a serious matter in New Jersey and the Court has a number of ways to enforce a child support order, including the suspension of a parent’s driver’s license or professional license, placing a lien on real estate owned by the parent, and even ordering jail time for a failure to pay.
At Murphy & Cistaro, we are not only concerned with your divorce today, but also with your quality of life long after your case is over. Your family law issues deserve to be managed with dignity and respect. You can prepare to civilly resolve your divorce, heal, and move on with your life with a legal team that has helped individuals all over New Jersey to heal and prosper. Contact us today for your free consultation.