When parents divorce or decide to end their relationship, the state or court can order the noncustodial parent to pay the other parent monthly child support payments. Child support is meant to provide the child with a similar standard of living to what the child would have enjoyed if their parents had remained together. As a result, child support is ordered in the best interests of the child instead of the interests of either parent.
New Jersey courts expect both parents to contribute financially to their children and account for each of their incomes when determining the child support amount. Once child support is ordered, it will continue every month until it terminates. Here's what to know about the termination of child support and what to expect from a divorce lawyer in New Jersey at the Ziegler Law Group, LLC.
When Does Child Support End?
Under New Jersey state law, the obligation to pay child support will continue until the child reaches the age of 19. At that time, it will automatically terminate. Child support will also end automatically if the child enters the military, marries, or dies. However, there are certain situations in which child support will not automatically end at age 19 as detailed below.
When a Different End Age is Specified
If the original support order establishes a different age for the child support to end, it can continue past age 19. However, child support can't continue beyond age 23 unless the court finds the child has a mental or physical disability that necessitates their continued dependence on the custodial parent.
When the Child is Still in High School
If the child will still be in high school after turning 19, the custodial parent can file a request for the continuance of child support. The parent will need to submit documentation showing the child is still enrolled in high school and when they are anticipated to graduate. In certain cases, a child might remain in high school until the age of 22 if they have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for a disability. Child support will still generally end when the child turns age 23.
When the Child is Enrolled in a University
If the child enrolls in a university directly after high school, the custodial parent can file a request for the continuance of child support and submit documentation of their child's enrollment. Child support can then be ordered to continue until the child graduates from college or turns age 23. Children who are attending college full-time are not considered emancipated in New Jersey. The court will consider the reasonableness of the child's attendance at college, the associated expenses, and whether the parents would have contributed if they had remained together. The court will also look at whether the child intends to live at home while attending college or will instead plan to live on campus away from home.
When the Child has a Mental or Physical Disability
If the child has a mental or physical disability that makes them dependent on the custodial parent, the parent can file a request for the continuance of child support to prevent the child support from ending automatically at age 19. If the court orders continued support based on the child's severely disabling condition, the order can extend beyond age 23 if necessary.
When the Child is in an Out-of-Home Placement
If a child is still in an out-of-home placement under the custody of the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) past age 19, the child support will not end when the child turns 19. Instead, the support will continue until the child reaches age 23 or the DCP&P notifies the court that the placement has ended.
When Other Exceptional Circumstances Exist
Under N.J. Stat. § 2A:17-56.67, the court can extend child support past age 19 upon the custodial parent's requests when it finds that other exceptional circumstances exist beyond those that are listed above. A finding that exceptional circumstances exist is up to the court's discretion.
When Does a Parent Have to Request a Continuation?
If you believe child support should continue past your child's 19th birthday, you must file a request for a continuation of child support before they turn 19. If you wait and try to file a request after their 19th birthday, your request will be denied. Once you file a request, the court will schedule a hearing to determine whether to extend the child support obligation and when it should end. In most cases, however, child support will end when your child turns 23.
In the request for a continuance of support, the parent must include a proposed end date along with documentation of why support should be continued until then. For example, if the child plans to attend a 4-year college, the proposed end date should be the child's anticipated college graduation date at age 22 based on full-time enrollment.
What Happens to Child Support Arrears When Child Support Ends?
Even if the obligation to pay continued support ends, it will not erase any arrears that are owed. If you owe child support arrears, you will have to continue paying until they are repaid in full with interest. It is best to avoid accumulating arrears and to stay on top of your child support payments to avoid potential penalties. You can't discharge arrears in bankruptcy, and they will continue to follow you as long as they remain unpaid.
Enforcing Child Support
If the parent who is supposed to pay child support stops paying or fails to pay when the support order is still in effect, the other parent can file a motion with the court to hold the parent in contempt of court. If the court finds the parent is in arrears, the court can assess penalties, including:
- Levy bank accounts
- Place a lien against real property
- Seize federal income tax returns
- Report arrears of $1,000 or more to the credit reporting agencies
- Seize lottery winnings
- Order the revocation of the parent's driver's license, vocational license, hunting license, or fishing license
- Seek the denial of a passport for arrears of $5,000 or more
- Issue a warrant for the parent's arrest if they fail to appear or abide by the court's decree
Talk to a Divorce Lawyer in New Jersey
If you are struggling to pay child support or want to have support continued after your child turns 19, you should speak to an experienced family lawyer at the law firm of the Ziegler Law Group, LLC. Call us for a consultation today at (973) 533-1100 to learn about your legal options.
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