TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Shirley K. Turner and Nicholas Scutari that clarifies when child support payments may end was signed into law 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 law, S1046, allows 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 can also 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 this new law, payments would not be extended beyond age 23.
“I’m pleased the governor signed this into law. This provides a more focused and fairer payment process for both parties,” said Senator Turner (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). “I believe this will help clear up any confusion that parents may have about child support requirements. Furthermore, this law will keep the best interest of the child in mind.”
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 current system not only can place a financial burden on a parent, but also puts pressure on the courts to deal with these cases,” said Senator Scutari (D-Middlesex, Somerset, and Union), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “By clarifying the child support process in New Jersey, we will provide some relief to the Judiciary by reducing the caseload while keeping in mind the most important aspect of the process, the child’s well-being.”
This law 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 signed into law today. It was approved by the Senate 36-2 earlier this year and cleared the Assembly 68-0 in December.