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Child Support Bill (S1046)

By Charles F. Vuotto, Jr., Esq. and Cheryl E. Connors, Esq.

The New Jersey Senate on July 23 approved a bill that is intended to clarify certain circumstances under which the obligation to pay child support terminates and provides that such termination would occur by operation of law. Specifically, the bill provides that, unless otherwise provided in a court order or judgment, the obligation to pay child support would terminate by operation of law without order by the court on the date that a child who is less than 19 years of age marries, dies, or enters the military service. The child support obligation would also terminate by operation of law without an order by the court when a child reaches 19 years of age unless (1) another age for the termination of the obligation to pay child support is specified in the court order; (2) the parents of the child consent and the court approves the continuation of support until another predetermined date; or (3) the court extends the obligation to pay child support based on an application by a parent or the child filed prior to the child attending the age of 19. The bill also provides that a parent or child may petition the court for the continuation of child support beyond the age of 19 in various circumstances including that the child is still enrolled in high school or other secondary educational program; the child is participating full-time in a post-secondary education program; the child has a physical or mental disability prior to the child reaching the age of 19 and requires continued support; or other exceptional circumstances exist as may be approved by the court. Under the bill, if the court grants an order for the continuation of the obligation to pay child support, it would include in its order a future date upon which the child support obligation will terminate or date upon which the court will review the circumstances of the parties and the children.

The New Jersey State Bar Association opposes S-1046/A2721.Their Legislative Position Statement notes concerns with the bill (S-1046/A2721) sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner and Assemblyman Reed Gusciora. Specifically, the Bar notes that “A child’s right to receive appropriate amounts of support from his/her parents, for an appropriate period of time, is not well managed by automatic operations of law which put significant burdens on the parent who receives, and often depends upon, child support. Currently, a child support payor must file an application for emancipation when the payor believes it is appropriate. This legislation would transfer that burden to the payee by mandating that support automatically ceases when the child attains the statutory age, unless the recipient makes an appropriate application to the Court to continue the payor’s obligation. This unreasonably prejudices the recipient, who is usually the custodial parent, by shifting the burden to the payee to prove a right to continue the child support instead of leaving the burden on the payor to demonstrate why his/her obligation should be terminated. Furthermore, this bill presumptively terminates child support at age 19, which is contrary to New Jersey law which currently contemplates that parents have an obligation to continue to support a child who is obtaining post-secondary education, including college or trade school or a similar program. Therefore, the NJSBA has concerns that the presumptive age of termination is not reflective of current state law.” (See http://www.njsba.com/resources/gov-affairs/position-statements-1/high-priority-bills-opposed.html )

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