Creating a child support agreement isn’t just about what your child needs today.
It’s about planning for the future, whether how much to spend on extracurricular activities or how much will be paid toward educational fees. But while it’s easy to focus on how your child will be supported, it’s equally important to consider what the end of child support will look like.
While the termination of child support can seem like a daunting and complex issue—whether you pay or receive support—the right attorney can guide you through the process to choose the best path forward for your family.
In New Jersey, there are several circumstances in which it may be appropriate to end support payments. Remember that every family is different, and the decision to terminate child support payments will depend on your unique circumstances.
Reasons for child support termination
Child support termination isn’t just about your child growing up, though that can be the primary reason behind ending payments. As time passes and family needs evolve, family circumstances surrounding child support can also change to the point where child support isn’t required.
In New Jersey, child support payments are generally set to end under a few different circumstances.
- Unless your child support agreement states otherwise, most child support in New Jersey is intended to terminate when the child reaches the age of 19 (unless they pursue higher education). This happens automatically if support is paid through the Department of Human Services.
- If your child attends some form of post-secondary education, then parents can request a continuation of support to last through their graduation. If that happens, the state mandates that all child support agreements should terminate by the age of 23.
- If a child becomes legally emancipated or financially independent before the agreed termination date, a supporting parent can file a motion to terminate their child support obligations.
We should also note that while the state mandates that child support agreements should terminate by the age of 23, parents can request a continuation of support if exigent circumstances apply, such as the continued financial support of children with disabilities or specific needs.
How to terminate child support
Even if your child support arrangement was fit your family’s needs at the time of your settlement, there might come the point where you need to discuss terminating child support. But because New Jersey considers child support to be the child’s right and the parents’ obligation, there may be legal hurdles to overcome in terminating support, even if both you and your co-parent agree.
If you and your co-parent agree, you can craft a Consent Order that outlines the termination of child support. This helps avoid the need to file a motion with the court. Working with an experienced child support attorney can equip you with a clear understanding of the process and possible results.
The court may decide to adjust or terminate child support based on several factors, including:
- Child emancipation
- Child custody arrangements
- Income and earning capacity of both parents
- The number and ages of children
- Special needs and other expenses
- Other children, assets, and liabilities related to prior marriages or other personal factors
Because so many factors play into these court decisions, working with an experienced child support termination attorney makes the process easier to understand.
How long does it take to terminate child support?
Every agreement or court order regarding support in NJ is different, and the timeline for the termination will vary.
Once the court determines an appropriate end date for financial support, parents will receive a notice from the state of New Jersey within six months of the termination date. If your child support is terminating because your child is turning 19 or 23, and support is paid through the state, then this is an automatic process unless you’re using direct pay. In that case, you’ll need to have signed an agreement or order that specifies when child support terminates, including triggers, whether confirmation between parents is required, etc.
A written notice will be sent to both parties 180 days and 90 days before the child support is scheduled to terminate. These notices allow parents to formally challenge the date of termination until the child is 23 years of age.
The consequences of unpaid child support
It’s essential to remember that the termination of child support in New Jersey doesn’t excuse any outstanding payments, known as arrears. Previous child support obligations, whether imposed by the court or set by agreement, are enforceable until all outstanding payments have been made.
Parents should be aware that failure to pay child support in New Jersey can lead to significant consequences for both parent and child. Beyond any resulting tension or financial burdens, unpaid child support can result in long-lasting legal and financial implications. Accruing significant unpaid child support can result in seizure of assets, suspension of a driver’s license, credit reporting, and issuance of a bench warrant.
If a parent finds themselves in an unexpected financial situation that makes it extremely difficult to manage a child support obligation, then it may be time to consider a modification of the support order.
Navigate the process with a team you can trust
At Jacobs Berger, our child support termination attorneys understand that child support laws in New Jersey can be complex and difficult to navigate.
Our firm approaches all family law matters with the aim of de-stressing the process for our clients. We work with our clients to help them find financial solutions that meet their unique needs and the needs of their families.
Contact our office today for a confidential and comprehensive strategic planning session regarding your existing child support agreement, your current circumstances, and the potential to have your payments terminated or modified.