Are you paying or receiving child support for a child who is currently attending college? If so, there were important changes to the laws regarding emancipation a few months ago that you should know about.
The old law: Before February 2017, the responsibility to emancipate a child fell upon the non-custodial parent (aka the parent paying support). If that parent did not file an Application for Emancipation, the support would continue to accrue until they did. There have been cases where a non-custodial parent did not file that Application until several years after college graduation. In some situations, the Court make the emancipation retroactive to the date of college graduation. But that was not done in every single case. That meant the non-custodial parent ran the risk of paying support months, or years, beyond what was required. The NJ lawmakers determined that was unfair and made some key changes to the emancipation law.
The new law: Effective February 1, 2017, important changes were made to the laws governing emancipation. First, emancipation will occur automatically once the child reaches the age of 19. However, there are some exceptions to that rule. A child will not be emancipated if they are 19 years or older and 1) still attending high school or 2) attending college full-time. The law specifically requires that in order to prevent emancipation, a child attending college must carry a course load that the school would qualify as full-time status. Second, regardless of attendance in college, the child will automatically be emancipated upon reaching 23 years old. Prior to your child reaching the age of 19, the Probation Department will send a letter to the custodial parent (aka the parent receiving the support) warning that emancipation will occur unless proof of attendance at high school or college is provided within a certain period of time. Failure to timely respond to that notice will result in automatic emancipation upon reaching 19 years old. If that occurs, the burden is on the custodial parent to file an Application requesting the child be un-emancipated and child support continue. Probation will send a letter every year requiring that the custodial parent provide proof of college attendance in order to continue receiving support. Failure to timely provide this proof will result in emancipation. It should be noted there is another exception to automatic emancipation: if your child suffers from a mental or physical disability, the Court could order continued support. You can view the new law here.