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Child Support and Financial Dependence of Special Needs Children

By Jamie Berger, Esq.

A parent may be required to pay child support beyond the age of 23 due to exceptional circumstances, including mental or physical disability. If you are someone seeking continuation of child support or seeking termination of support, there are things you should know before going to court.

Termination of Support

In New Jersey, child support can terminate upon the child reaching the age of 19 or upon emancipation. Normally, when the child turns 19, the court will send the parent of primary residence a notice of termination of support. Once a parent receives a notice of termination of support, he or she can go before the court to seek a continuation of child support. The court will then consider certain factors when deciding to continue or terminate support, which can be converted to a form of maintenance beyond the age of 23 if certain conditions are met.

Court Considerations When Deciding on Continued Support Beyond Age 23

It is a child’s right to receive support for their basic needs, such as food, housing, transportation, and healthcare. Ordinarily, the goal of parents is to love, educate and support their children until they reach the age of maturity and can care for themselves.  Unfortunately, not all children grow up to be adults that can support themselves – and it is not for lack of desire.  In some cases, without child support, the child may never be able to provide these necessities for themselves.

Physical or Mental Disabilities Prevent Financial Independence

Individuals may suffer from certain physical or mental disabilities that make it impossible to financially support themselves. In these cases, the court may continue the support provided by both parents. The court will assess the financial obligation of the parents and consider these factors together with the child’s eligibility for “public benefits and services for people with disabilities.” Additionally, the court may consider establishing a trust for such payments to “promote the well-being of the child.”

Overcoming the Presumption that the Child Should be Emancipated

If one parent is seeking contribution for continued support, he or she must overcome the presumption that the child should be emancipated.  That parent will have to present proof and demonstrate to the court that the child has a “severe mental or physical incapacity that causes” the child to be financially dependent.  The support will continue until such time as the child “is relieved of the incapacity or is no longer financially dependent on the parent.” In other words, continued support will be required until the child can care for him or herself both financially and physically.

Evidence to Show Cause that Child Support is Required

Essentially, courts will not permit children to receive support beyond 23 without cause.  For example, a child or young adult cannot simply remain in the family home and receive support because he wants to “find himself” or because he does not like his job. However, if the party can prove that the child cannot care for himself and is mentally or physically incapacitated and needs financial support, the court may grant continuation.

Such evidence or proof of physical or mental incapacity can take the form of:

  • -Medical records
  • -Educational records
  • -Social service reports
  • -Expert testimony

For instance, if the child had been classified and receiving social services for cerebral palsy and the records demonstrate that he cannot care for himself, they can be used to prove the continued need for care.

There is no absolute answer to the termination of child support. While proofs vary in each case, what is submitted to the court makes a major difference in the court’s decision. Our attorneys have experience with termination and continuation of support under extraordinary circumstances like disability.

Contact Our Morristown Child Support Lawyers Today!

The child support termination attorneys of Jacobs Berger believe that disputes involving child support, child custody, and all forms of family law can be settled effectively without unnecessary emotional and financial stress. We approach each new case as an opportunity to help our clients build a solid foundation for their family’s future, as we have done for clients throughout New Jersey and the greater Morris County region. If you are looking for an alternative to cookie-cutter legal services provided by larger firms, look no further.

Contact us online today for a confidential and comprehensive Strategic Planning Session with our qualified divorce attorneys regarding the termination of a child support agreement or any other family law needs.

Contact Our Morristown Attorneys Today

At Jacobs Berger, our attorneys are experienced in protecting our clients across Madison, Randolph, Tewksbury, Morristown, and the greater Morris County area in all family law-related issues.

To schedule a strategic planning session with one of our experienced team members regarding your particular case, please contact us online or through our Morristown, NJ office at (973) 354-4506.