It is a common misconception among New Jersey parents that child support obligations terminate once the child turns 18. It is true that if a child is emancipated, then further child support is not required, but this does not mean that past-due child support is waived. There are also some circumstances that could cause child support to continue past a child’s 18th birthday.
When child support is not paid in a timely fashion, the parent owing payment is considered to be in arrears. Child support that is in arrears does not terminate just because the child turns 18 or is emancipated. The reasoning behind this is that child support is not paid to the child but instead goes to the parent supporting the child. The custodial parent continued to incur the costs of raising the child, so he or she is still owed the child support for that time. The parent may pursue or continue to pursue enforcement options.
A parent who is owed child support has a variety of legal options for enforcing the payment. A failure to pay child support places a parent in contempt of a court order, enabling legal actions to be brought against him or her. Government agencies responsible forchild support enforcement can take multiple actions to collect payment including garnishing wages or collecting the money from tax returns. In more extreme cases, the government may even suspend a delinquent parent’s driver’s license or jail him or her.
If a parent is owed child support, he or she must initiate the collections process. While he or she is still owed child support after the child’s 18th birthday, the parent has a limited amount of time to collect the money. The parent may need to return to court to renew the child support order and extend this deadline.