Currently, in most states, child support does not terminate automatically. A paying parent would have to file emancipation papers with court, notify the other parent and then the court wiould decide if the child should be emancipated. This is necessary because most states do not emancipate a child who attends college immediately following high school. A college student is deemed to still need support from both parents.

A bill that would generally end child support at age 19 but allow wiggle room for litigation is advancing through the New Jersey Legislature, even as echoes of the notorious Rachel Canning case are still ringing (the child who sued her parent for support).

The Assembly Judiciary Committee on March 10 approved the measure, which also allows support recipients to petition the court for extension beyond age 19.

“This appears to create a private cause of action,” said Michael Patrick Carroll, R-Morris, who abstained from the 5-0-1 committee vote. Giving a child the right to sue a parent is inappropriate.”

Carroll said the provision evokes the case of Canning, the Lincoln Park teenager who moved out and sued her parents when they stopped paying her private school tuition and other expenses because she refused to live by their house rules.

On March 4, Superior Court Judge Peter Bogaard denied emergency relief to Canning, saying he didn’t want to establish a precedent that would essentially allow children to move and sue for “an Xbox, an IPhone, or a 60-inch television.” Canning’s dispute with her parents has since been resolved and the litigation has been dismissed.

The pending bill is addressed to a more common situation, the need for parents to go to court to petition that their child support obligation be ended when the child reaches the age of majority.

“It’s expensive, and a lot of people just don’t do it,” said Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman John McKeon; D-Essex. “It should naturally just terminate absent a court order to continue” or if there is an agreement among the parents, McKeon said.

Under this bill, child support would stop by operation of law unless another age for termination is specified in an existing court order; the parents and the judge agree that support can continue until another predetermined date, a judge agrees to order continue support based on an application filed by a parent or the child; or the support recipient is in out-of-home placement through the Division of Child Protection and Permanency.

A parent or child could ask that support be continued beyond the age 19 if the recipient is enrolled in high school or another secondary program; is attending college or a postsecondary program full time; or has a physical or mental disability that existed before turning 19.

All arrearages that accrued before the child turned 19 would continue to be due and enforceable. The bill would not apply to child support arrangements or orders entered into in other jurisdictions.

Should child support automatically end at age 19 or should the paying parent be made to file the petition to end his obligation?

The Talk Boss says the latter is more appropriate. The latter is status quo. If a paying parent sees that his child is in college during which time his obligation automatically ends, either he or she must then go back to court to seek continuation of the support which is a waste of taxpayer’s money and the money of both parents.

Written by Kecia Clarke