Effective February 1, 2017, the child support laws in New Jersey will change.
The current law establishes 19 as the age when a child support and/or medical support obligation will end.
However, the new law allows for child and/or medical support to continue up to age 23 for cases in which:
- the dependent is still in high school; or
- the dependent is attending full-time college, vocational or graduate school; or
- the dependent is disabled; or
- the parties reached a separate agreement; or
- continued support was granted by the court.
This new law shifts the burden of proof onto the parent receiving the child support to demonstrate the need for the continued support and provide proof that the child falls into one of the aforementioned exceptions.
How will the process work? The NJ Department of Human Services has provided the following information:
“For families that have a child between the ages of 19 and 22 prior to July 31, 2017, the First Notice of Child Support Termination will be mailed out on February 1, 2017, with child support ending on August 1, 2017 (rather than on the child’s 19th birthday) as the new law is phased in. This Notice will contain information on how to request a continuation of child support as well as how the amount of child support may change.
If you have a dependent turning age 19 after August 1, 2017, you will receive a First Notice of Child Support Termination 180 days before your child’s 19th birthday.
If your Judgment of Divorce (JOD) or support order specifies an end date other than the dependent’s 19th birthday, that date will stand and you will not be permitted to request an administrative continuation of support. However, you still may receive a Notice of Child Support Termination and be asked to send in a copy of the JOD or order.
If no continuation of child support is requested, a second Notice of Child Support Termination will be sent out 90 days before the dependent’s 19th birthday. If no continuation is requested after receiving the second notice, the order of support will end as of the child’s 19th birthday, and both parties will receive an update reflecting this change. (Note that if back child support is owed, the non-custodial parent still is responsible for paying that off.)
If you receive an updated order for continued support and wish to oppose it, you may file an application or motion with the court. If there are younger children on the order in addition to the 19-year-old (or older) child(ren), parents may need to file an application or motion with the court to adjust the child support amount.
If your JOD or support order calls for child support to continue beyond the dependent’s 19th birthday – if they are in college, for example – you will receive a Final Notice of Child Support Termination 90 days before the dependent’s 23rd birthday (or other extended termination date) informing you that the child support will end.
If support arrears exist when support terminates, the arrears will remain due and enforceable. The new law determines how payment for such arrears will be made, as the “sum of the recurring child support obligation in effect immediately prior to the effective date of termination plus any arrears repayment obligation in effect immediately prior to the effective date of termination” unless otherwise ordered.
These changes may have onerous effects on the parent receiving child support. It is critical that newly drafted agreements reference these changes and address them.
To learn what steps you can take to ensure your child support does not automatically terminate on your child’s 19th birthday, or if you receive a Notice from the Courts, please contact Gebhardt & Kiefer, PC to schedule a consultation with an experienced family law attorney.
Diana Fredericks, Esq., is a partner with Gebhardt & Kiefer, PC and devotes her practice solely to family law matters. Contact Ms. Fredericks for a consultation at 908-735-5161or via email. Ms. Fredericks is a Certified Matrimonial Attorney and was named to the NJ Super Lawyers Rising Stars list in the practice of family law by Thomson Reuters in 2015 and 2016, and to the New Leaders of the Bar list by the New Jersey Law Journal in 2015.