TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Shirley K. Turner and Nicholas Scutari that clarifies when child support payments may end cleared the Senate today.
New Jersey has no statutorily-defined age when child support orders end, often leaving it up to parents to petition the court to have the payments stopped. If no motion is filed, the child support order continues indefinitely unless the custodial parent agrees or a case worker issues a child status letter to both parents, which may trigger a court hearing.
The bill, S1046, would allow for the end of child support payments once the child reaches the age of 19 or if they marry, die or enter military service before the age of 19. The payments could be extended by court order or if both parents agree. The courts could extend child support payments under a number of special circumstances, including if the child has a mental or physical disability or if the child is attending a college or university under certain conditions. Under the bill, payments would not be extended beyond age 23.
“This bill will provide a more focused and fairer payment process for both parties,” said Senator Turner (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). “This legislation sets up a specific age for child support payments to end, unless parents agree upon a continued payment system or if the court steps in and finds that conditions exist that warrant an extension.”
The Senators noted that unclogging the court docket could mean an influx of additional federal dollars for our courts because of federal incentives that reward the timely disposition of cases.
“Our state’s current system often places a financial burden on a parent, but it also puts pressure on the courts to deal with these cases. This bill will provide some relief to the Judiciary by reducing the caseload,” said Senator Scutari (D-Middlesex, Somerset, and Union), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “At the same time, it will reduce financial stress on parents who ultimately are just trying to do what is right for their child.”
This legislation stems from a recommendation from the State Auditor’s report on the Child Support Program in the Department of Human Services’ Division of Family Development. Most other states set an automatic age of emancipation at age 18 or 19, with some providing exceptions to that automatic emancipation similar to the ones included in this bill.
The bill was approved 36-2. It cleared the Assembly 68-0 in December and now heads to the governor.