Major changes were signed into law last week that will profoundly impact support payors and recipients throughout the State of New Jersey. Here are the basic details from NJChildSupport.org: On January 19, 2016, Governor Christie signed S-1046/A-2721 into law. This law establishes 19 as the age when a child support and/or medical support obligation will end. 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; attending full-time college, vocational or graduate school; is disabled; if the parties reached a separate agreement; or, if continued support was granted by the court.” Until last week's bill signing, emancipation of children in New Jersey was not automatic at age 19; rather, upon the child achieving financial independence, a parent would need to file with the Court to modify or terminate child support. No longer. What does the new law accomplish?
S-1046/A-2721 shifts the burden. Whereas before a parent seeking to terminate or modify support needed to file a motion to terminate it or continue paying indefinitely, now a parent seeking to keep support coming in must demonstrate a valid rationale for it such as a physical or mental disability or, alternatively, full-time post-secondary enrollment (e.g. full-time attendance at a four-year college) unless he or she obtains the consent of the other party. Ordinarily, however, support cannot be extended beyond age 23. The impact of this new law change could prove far-reaching. To begin with, not just the legal burden but also the cost of litigation has now shifted, at least to a degree, from the litigant paying support to the party receiving support in more ways than one. For example, college-aged students who haven't finished their post-secondary programs by age 23 may have trouble securing their parents' involuntary financial support. Either by choice or academic necessity, it is not unusual for undergraduate completion to extend beyond the traditional age of 22 in this day and age. Particularly for divorcing parents, it is now more critical than ever to contemplate and properly-address certain obligations – like college debt and any active co-signed loans – at the time of dissolution in a well-written matrimonial settlement agreement. We're here to help you navigate the ins and outs of emancipation in New Jersey. Help is only a quick phone call or e-mail away. We're here to walk you through the process and achieve a best-case outcome given the facts of your case. If you have any questions regarding the determination of income for child support, or family court matters generally in New Jersey, please contact us online today or call (856) 546-1350 for a confidential consultation with one of our skilled family court lawyers. ______