Many people assume that child support automatically ends when a child turns 18 years old. However, this assumption is not valid in all cases, and child support can and often does continue after a child turns 18 years old.

Under New Jersey law, child support payments end at age 23. However, many factors are considered, and parents should always seek legal advice before assuming they can stop child support payments. For example, the court could order continued child support payments past the age of 23 years if the child has a mental or physical incapacity. 

It is important to remember that the right to child support belongs to the child—not to the parent receiving child support payments. Therefore, child support payments do not end if the parent receiving support payments decides to remarry.

Parents are legally responsible for the financial support of their child until the child is emancipated. Therefore, a more accurate question is: “when is a child considered emancipated from their parents?”

When is a Child Considered Emancipated in New Jersey?

When a child is emancipated, the parents no longer have control over the decisions for the child. The child is considered an adult in the eyes of the law and can make their own decisions. The parents are released from any financial responsibility for the child.

In most cases, children are emancipated when they turn 18 years of age. However, that is not always the case. There are situations in which a child might be emancipated earlier than 18 years old.

A parent may be released from child support payments before the child turns 18 years old when:

  • The child gets married
  • The child graduates high school and chooses not to attend college
  • The child moves outside of both parents’ homes
  • The child has a full-time job
  • The child joins the armed forces
  • The child graduates from college and chooses not to attend graduate school

Before stopping child support payments, it is a good idea to consult a child support lawyer. If you stop child support payments before a child is emancipated, you could face penalties and other consequences for failure to pay child support payments. 

New Jersey’s Child Support Termination Statute

On January 19, 2016, Governor Christie signed the Child Support Obligation Termination Law. The law became effective on February 1, 2017. The purpose of the law was to clarify when child support obligations would terminate.

Under the new law, the age of presumptive emancipation was raised from 18 years old to 19 years old. Furthermore, the new law places the burden of proving that child support payments should continue on the recipient of child support. Under the old law, the parent paying child support payments had the burden of proving that the child was emancipated. 

It is important to note that petitions to continue child support payments after the age of 19 years must be filed before the child’s 19th birthday. The court does not consider petitions filed after the child’s 19th birthday.

A significant change in New Jersey child support laws was that all child support payments would end when the child turned 23 years old. However, as mentioned above, child support obligations could continue beyond the child’s 23rd birthday.

The law was changed to allow for court-ordered financial support of adult children who have severe mental or physical incapacities. The new provision went into effect on December 1, 2020.

How Does the Termination Process Work for Child Support Payments?

If the Probation Child Support Enforcement Unit (PCSE) supervises child support payments, both parents receive a notice of the proposed termination of payments 180 days before the child support payments are scheduled to terminate. Another notice is sent 90 days before the termination date if the PCSE does not receive a response to the first notice.

If the child is 23 years old, about to turn 23, or there is a court-ordered termination date, both parents receive a Notice of Child Support Obligation Termination 90 days before the child support payments end. Notices are mailed to the last known address of record, so it is important to update the PCSE if you relocate or obtain a new mailing address.

Requests for Continuation of Support must be filed before the termination date for child support payments. Failing to act quickly could result in the loss of child support payments. 

Do I Need a Child Support Lawyer in New Jersey?

With recent changes to the child support laws and procedures for requesting a continuance of child support obligations, it is in your best interest to seek legal counsel whenever there is a question or issue related to child support obligations. 

A child support attorney can help you navigate the system to ensure your child receives proper child support payments. For parents paying child support payments, a lawyer can help ensure that their child support payments are calculated correctly.