Arndt, Sutak & Miceli, LLC

Child Support no longer ends at 23 for special needs children

Probation monitoring child support accounts, also known as Title IV-D relief, is often one of the most misunderstood court processes that we face in our family law firm. A common question we receive is when the monitoring ends. Like most things, the answer tends to be “it depends.” However, one solid piece of information we used to provide clients was that probation would no longer monitor child support for a child over the age of 23. At that time, if the child had special needs that warranted it, the support would be converted to “financial maintenance” that was not enforceable or monitored by probation and needed to be direct pay.

In 2017, the Termination of Obligation to Pay Child Support Law (N.J.S.A. 2a:17-56.67 et. seq.) was passed which created an automatic termination of child support when certain triggers were met in Probation’s records. Generally, the law allowed automatic termination of child support when a child reached age 19 when the support was paid through probation. This was merely an administrative process and did not require either party to actually file a motion with the court. Instead, the law put the burden on the recipient to object to the termination if there was a reason that child support should continue. For example, if the 19 year old was attending full time college, was disabled, or if an agreement between the parties used a different termination date. Importantly, the law state that under no circumstances would child support through probation continue for a child past the age of 23. Said another way, regardless of whether your child was enrolled in a 5 year college program, was in trade or graduate school full time, or was disabled and unable to work or live independently, child support would still be terminated as of that child’s 23rd birthday.

While in some cases child support was still required to be paid, as noted above as “financial maintenance” because of disability or illness, the court could not offer the protections of having this maintenance paid through probation, garnished directly from someone’s pay, or otherwise monitored by probation. Importantly for many parents, it also would not allow for the automatic hearings to deal with non-payment of support making enforcement costly for parents.

Thankfully, on January 21, 2020, Governor Murphy signed S4286 into law, which amended the Termination of Obligation to Pay Child Support law authorizing the court to order continuation of child support and Title Iv-D services beyond the age of 23 when a child has a severe mental or physical incapacity that causes the child to be financially dependent on their parents. This amendment went into effect on December 1, 2020.

This amendment has now created the ability for children with special medical needs, whether mental or physical, to continue to receive support from both parents and give them the access and ability to utilize probation’s resources for collecting and enforcing the obligation. In case it isn’t clear enough- THIS IS A GAME CHANGER! Now the parent who primarily cares for a child or children with special needs will not have to have the court’s assistance in assuring they receive financial assistance for the child.

For parents who have a child over the age of 23 whose child support was terminated, the law allows for you to file a motion with the court to seek reinstatement. Our office is well versed in filing these applications and motions and would be happy to assist you should you have any questions or need assistance.

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