Last month, the New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee approved a new measure that would update the state’s existing child support laws. The bill, S-1046, plans to automatically curtail child support payments once the recipient turns 19, family lawyers in New Jersey report. Currently, the state standard for child support payments lasts until 18.
Every child is entitled to financial support from his or her parents, regardless of the parents’ living situation or relationship status. According to New Jersey laws, that financial support is comprised of funds from the current income of both parents, even if only one parent is the primary caretaker. These rules are designed to prevent any child in the state from falling victim to poverty or destitution as a result of divorce, a birth out of wedlock, or any other unconvential, and potentially precarious, situation.
The New Jersey Child Support Guidelines allocate the necessary financial support for raising a child between two parents, as fairly as possible, taking into account each parent’s current job status, duties and responsibilities—including expenses for food, housing, clothing, transportation, entertainment, health care, and other essentials—in the care of the child, and the economic conditions. Depending on the age of the child or children, and each parent’s income, the Guidelines develop an estimate for support, and the financial responsibility required of each party to . Often, the child support payments are ordered by a judge, based on these rulings, until the child is no longer a dependent of his or her parents. Typically, the age of dependency ends at 17-18, unless the child is still enrolled in high school or some institution of secondary education.
But under the new measures, this child support would be automatically terminated once the child turns 19. However, a parent can request that child support payments continue beyond the child’s 19th birthday, if the child is still in high school, or another education program such as college or trade school, or a full time post secondary program, or suffers from a long-term mental or physical disability that existed before the child turned 19. At that point, the bill states that the child support determination would be turned over to a judge for a decision. Anything that a parent owes in overdue or underpaid support payments would continue to be in arrears even after the child’s 19th birthday, and needs to be paid even if the support is now terminated.
Along with S-1046, the state Assembly Judiciary Committee recommended the passage of another bill, A-2721. This bill is similar to the termination child support bill, but also includes a clause that allows a child to sue his or her parents, in order to get them to continue paying child support past their 19th birthday. So far, this measure has not garnered the support it needs; with opponents critiquing the allowance of a lawsuit brought by a child, especially in the wake of the teen who sued her parents for tuition money after she moved out, refusing to live by the house rules her parents had set.
Although child support is a necessary regulation for families who have different living situations, including parents who split finances and time with their children, the determination of how long payments must continue is still being debated with these new laws. At New Jersey law firm Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, our family attorneys represent anyone who has questions regarding the state’s laws and regulations for child support.