Does Child Support Decrease as My Child Gets Older?

“Does child support decrease as my child gets older?” This is a common question and one that has variable answers. Technically, child support obligations do not automatically increase or decrease in regards to a child’s age. However, there are extenuating circumstances that would warrant a reduction in monthly payments owed by the non-custodial parent.

Child support laws vary by state, so the easiest way to determine your obligations is to speak with an experienced family law attorney in your area. The law firm of Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman helps New York and New Jersey families with every aspect of child support and matrimonial law. Our lawyers provide expert assistance with child support modifications to reflect circumstantial changes that frequently arise.

Original agreements for child support

If both parents are in agreement from the beginning, they are free to set specific conditions that will justify a change in their mutual child support obligations, as long as the modifications are in alignment with the best interests of the child. Ultimately, this agreement must be approved by the court. The parents may also choose to include a clause that stipulates when support obligations will terminate. For example, when the child starts working full-time, graduates from college, or gets married. If the initial child support agreement does not outline these provisions, the court will decide when child support ends.

When does child support end in New York?

Unless there is a written agreement that states otherwise, child support in New York State must be paid until the child reaches the age of 21. This is assuming that the child is attending college or university on a full-time basis, or is still living at home with the custodial parent. However, if the child is under the age of 21, they are considered “emancipated” if they:

  • Are self-supporting with a full-time job
  • Are married
  • Are in the military
  • Are not living in the parent’s home and will not obey parents’ reasonable commands

Emancipation is the legal process by which a child becomes independent and released from the support and control of a parent. Age is a major factor in determining emancipation, but the courts will consider whether the child is entirely self-reliant and able to support themselves. Once a child is legally emancipated, all child support payment obligations end.

New Jersey child support laws

Under the New Jersey Emancipation Statute, enacted in 2017, a child is legally emancipated at the age of 19. At this point, parents are not obligated to pay child support. However, the custodial parent may request a continuation of payments until the child has reached the age of 23 in cases where the child is enrolled in secondary education or has additional expenses related to a physical or mental disability.

The NJ emancipation law goes into effect if the child:

  • Gets married
  • Dies
  • Enters the military
  • OR turns 19

However, if the original child support decree has a specific date that stipulates when support obligations end other than the child’s 19th birthday, that date will prevail.

Asking the courts for a child support modification

In a nutshell, children can “age out” of the child support agreements, but getting older does not mean that monthly payments obligations will decrease. In fact, child support payments may be increased as the child gets older to reflect cost of living adjustments and other factors.

In order to request a child support modification in New York or New Jersey, the parents must prove that changing circumstances justify the amendment of the original support order. A  family law attorney can help parents who want to amend a child support order.

Modifications may be requested when:

  • The child has special educational needs
  • The child has a medical condition
  • A parent has a new child to support
  • A parent changes jobs and earns a higher salary
  • A parent loses their job
  • A parent is incarcerated and is not earning wages
  • A parent has suffered a permanent disability

Legal guidance from family law attorneys in New York & New Jersey

If you need sound legal advice about your obligations, reach out to Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman for a private consultation with a child support attorney in New York and New Jersey. Our lawyers provide compassionate, knowledgeable support for a wide array of family law issues.