New Jersey Enacts New Emancipation Statute

New Law Will Affect Child Support Obligations

Child Support

A new statute governing the emancipation of minor children, signed into law in January, 2016, became effective on February 1, 2017. The law specifically addresses when the obligation of a non-custodial parent to pay child support ends. The law applies to all child support orders issued prior to or after its effective date.

The Provisions of the New Law

New Jersey has long had a rebuttable presumption that the obligation to pay child support ends when the child becomes 18. In order for the child support obligation to terminate, however, the person paying the support had the obligation to file a motion to emancipate the child or support would continue. The new law changes that, and now the obligation to pay child support ends, without an order from the court, when the child marries, dies, or enters military service. A child support order will also end automatically on the child’s 19th birthday unless one of the following conditions exists:

  • The custodial parent files a written request to extend payments. The request must be filed before the child’s 19th birthday.
  • The child for whom the support is paid has been placed out of the home by the New Jersey Department of Children and Families.
  • There is a court order identifying another cutoff date. Under no circumstances, though, can child support continue after the child’s 23rd birthday.

The statute also identifies the specific situations when a custodial parent may ask the court to extend child support payments:

If the child is still in high school or some other secondary educational program

If the child has a mental or physical disability that existed before the child’s 19th birthday and necessitates continued support. This determination must be made by a state or federal agency.

The child is enrolled in college or a post-secondary program and is taking the requisite number of credits to be considered a full-time student

There’s also a catchall provision that allows a custodial parent to seek continued support due to “exceptional circumstances,” as approved by the court. If the child support is extended beyond the age of 19, the order must also include a prospective date upon which the support obligation will terminate. This new law puts the burden on the parent receiving the child support to prove one of the exceptions applies to extend the support past the age of 19.

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