Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.

Will New Jersey Child Support Laws Apply If I Have Moved To A Different State?

As an experienced child support lawyer I am aware know that according to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, New Jersey courts cannot change a child support issued by another state to provide a longer duration than that state’s law would allow. In an action to modify a child-support order, under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, the law of the state that issued the first order governs the duration of the duty of support. The supporting parent must fulfill that duty of support before a new obligation by a court of another state can be entered. As the attorneys at my law firm study all newly released cases, the following is an excellent demonstration of when a New Jersey Court retains jurisdiction over a child support matter. 

In Marshak v. Weser, father, Lawrence Weser, appealed from an order of the Family Part which required him to pay college expenses for his eighteen-year old son, even though the original child support order was entered in Pennsylvania, a state which does not require a parent to pay college expenses for a child who has reached the age of majority.

Jan and Lawrence Marshak married in 1981 and had two children together. On June 16, 1999, the parties divorced in Pennsylvania. In 1999, the first child support order was entered in Pennsylvania. After that, both parents and the children moved to New Jersey. A second child support order was entered in Pennsylvania in 2000. This order reduced the amount of support Lawrence was required to pay. On June 12, 2002, the parents signed a consent order entered in New Jersey, that recalculated support for the younger child in anticipation of the older child’s emancipation. This consent order stated that nothing in the consent order would be interpreted to affect the “nature, term, duration or extent of child support under the laws of the State of Pennsylvania.” On June 21, 2002 the older child was declared emancipated by a Pennsylvania court order. Immediately after the younger child turned eighteen and graduated from high school, Lawrence filed a motion in New Jersey to have him declared emancipated. In response, Jan filed a cross-motion to “unemancipate” the older child, and also require Lawrence to contribute towards both children’s college expenses.

At trial Lawrence argued that according to New Jersey Statute 2A:4-30.65 to -30, or the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, Pennsylvania law would govern the emancipation issue because a child support obligation entered in one state cannot be changed by a court of a different state. Still, the trial judge agreed with Jan that the New Jersey Supreme Court case of Phillip v. Stahl, indicated that New Jersey courts should apply the laws of this state on payment of college expenses if both parents live in New Jersey at that time. As a result, the judge ordered Lawrence to pay college expenses for the younger child without first holding a hearing or reviewing the twelve factors stated in Newburgh v. Arrigo. The Newburgh factors require that a parent or child seeking a contribution towards college expenses must make the request before the same expenses are incurred. According to the Newburgh factors courts should consider: whether the parent would have assisted in college expenses had there have been no divorce; the background, values, goals of the parent; the amount of assistance requested by the child; the parents ability to pay; the relationship of the contribution to the field of study sought by the child; financial resources of both parents; the child’s commitment to higher education; the child’s own financial resources; the child’s ability to work during college; financial aid availability; the child’s relationship to the paying parent; and the relationship between the education requested and the long term goals of the child.

The trial court decided this case as a matter of law, without a trial and so the New Jersey Appellate Division reviewed the case de novo. De novo means a second time or afresh. An appeals court hearing a case de novo may refer to the trial court's record to determine the facts, but will but rule on the evidence and matters of law without giving deference to that court's findings. A de novo trial is a trial or a hearing that is ordered by an appellate court that has reviewed the record of a hearing in a lower court and sent the matter back to the original court for a new trial, as if it had not been previously heard nor decided.

The New Jersey Appellate Division explained that in 1996 Congress mandated that all States adopt the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act as a condition of receiving federal funding. The uniformity requirement was mandated not only to create a means of enforcing a support order when one or both parties have moved from the state where the support order was entered, but also to create ground rules for changing such an order, and to do so in a way that prevented conflict from orders issued by courts of different states. Congress expected that multi-state conflicts over child support jurisdiction would be avoided if every state adopted the same rules.

New Jersey adopted the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act in 1998. Pennsylvania eventually adopted the law as well. Both state’s laws state that a court of that state could not modify any part of a child support order that cannot be modified by the law of the issuing state. Pennsylvania law does not require payment of college expenses for child over the age of 18. Therefore, a Pennsylvania child support order cannot, under Pennsylvania law, be modified to require a parent to pay his or her children’s college expenses.

According to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, New Jersey courts cannot change a child support issued by another state to provide a longer duration than that state’s law would allow. In an action to modify a child-support order, under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, the law of the state that issued the first order governs the duration of the duty of support. The supporting parent must fulfill that duty of support before a new obligation by a court of another state can be entered.

The New Jersey Appellate Division also determined that the case precedent of Phillipp v. Stahl, was not relevant in this case because it did not address the issue of whether duration was unchangeable part of the support order at issue in the case. In Phillip, New Jersey had obtained jurisdiction over support orders because New Jersey courts had issued three prior orders which the court considered to have modified the original out of state support order. The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act states that once another state issues a modification pursuant to the same act, of a support order issued by another state, then exclusive jurisdiction passes from the state to the second state. 

Furthermore, the New Jersey Appellate Division stated that if a New Jersey Court had jurisdiction to decide the issue of college expenses, it need to first hold a plenary hearing according to Newburgh. The New Jersey Appellate Division concluded that the Pennsylvania support order could not changed to extend Lawrence’s support obligation to include expenses for the parties’ son who is over the age of eighteen. Thus, the order requiring him to provide continued support for the younger child was vacated, and Anthony’s motion for emancipation was granted.

Please contact my law firm if you are facing a child support problem here in New Jersey.