If you're co-parenting in New Jersey and don't have primary physical custody, you're undoubtedly paying child support. While most parents are happy to ensure their kids have the support they need, you're probably also wondering when does support end? What happens if your child is over 18 but in college? What kind of obligation do you have for financial support after 18?
Does Child Support End at 18?
We all know about the magical age of 18 when your child becomes an adult, can enter into contracts on their own, and can go off into the world without the power of your parental signature. Typically, if you're paying child support in New Jersey, it will end at age 18 or when your child graduates from high school, whichever happens last. At this point, New Jersey law presumes that your child is emancipated:
"[E]very person 18 or more years of age shall in all other matters and for all other purposes be deemed to be an adult and, notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, shall have the same legal capacity to act and the same powers and obligations as a person 21 or more years of age." N.J.S.A. § 9:17B-3 (2013).
When your child graduates from high school or reaches 18, you can apply to terminate child support if they are no longer a full-time student.
Do I Have to Continue Child Support for College Kids?
The answer is yes. If your child remains a full-time student because they're in college or a trade school or can't live independently because of a disability or other reason, New Jersey law won't consider them emancipated. You will need to continue child support until the age of 23 as long as your child is in school full-time.
Do I Have to Pay for College as Part of Child Support?
The answer is maybe. Your New Jersey Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) will often cover the allocation of tuition between you and your co-parent. However, if your MSA doesn't cover this, the court will determine whether you must contribute to college expenses. In determining this, the court will look at:
- Your child's ability to pay for college and expenses,
- Your child's ability to earn income,
- Your child's financial assets,
- Your child's college goals,
- The financial situation of both parents,
- How much your child needs for college tuition and expenses,
- How reasonable it is for your child to attend college, and
- If either parent would be financially able to pay for college if you'd stayed together.
The goal is to ensure that no one pays more than their fair share, considering your child's goals and financial needs.
Get Experienced Legal Advice
Whether you're in the middle of a custody dispute, trying to negotiate a marital settlement agreement, or looking ahead to the end of child support, you need experienced legal guidance. Attorney Joseph D. Lento can help. He's been passionately representing New Jersey families for many years. Contact the Lento Law Firm online or give them a call at 888-535-8636.