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Upcoming Changes to New Jersey’s Emancipation Laws

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Earlier this year, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a new law which will have a big impact on New Jersey’s laws regarding emancipation. The changes to the law will affect child support orders issued both before and after they go into effect on February 1, 2017, so individuals with active child support orders, and especially those with older children, should begin planning for the changes now.

Perhaps the most significant change to the law will be that child support will terminate by default once a child reaches age 19, unless there is some other court-established reason why this should not occur. These include: 1) a court order already exists establishing that support will end at a different age (though that age must be under 23); 2) the custodial parent writes the court before the child reaches age 19 to request an extension of child support, or; 3) the child in question has been placed with a family through the Division of Child Protection and Permanency.

Once a paying parent gives notice that child support is slated to end, the parent receiving the support must counter this request with evidence of some reason why child support should continue past the child’s 19th birthday. Such reasons can include that the child is still in high school, the child is enrolled full-time in college, the child has a preexisting disability that requires added care, or there are some other exceptional circumstances present. Courts which agree to an extension of child care past age 19 have to note when the child support will end in their order granting the extension.

Another significant addition to the law is the fact that any child support payment obligation will terminate under the law once a child reaches the age of 23. That said, that child can petition the court to force their parent to pay some other form of monthly financial maintenance or reimbursement. Under exceptional circumstances, including where a child is mentally or physically disabled, the parent or child can request that the court convert the child support obligation into some other maintenance payment, even past age 23.

There are additional important changes in the law on child support obligations, including how child support arrears will be paid, how unallocated support for multiple children will be handled, and how support arrears when the child ages out of receiving support will be handled. Speak with a skilled New Jersey family law attorney if you believe that you may be affected by these changes.

If you are in need of skilled legal assistance in contesting or obtaining a divorce or child support order, contact knowledgeable Union family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro, at 908-964-0102.

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