Capitol Report

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November 25, 2019

Legislature considers bills on child support, child abuse, and fertility treatment coverage in marathon committee meetings

Continuing the momentum of the lame duck session, the Legislature has considered and moved quickly on several bills of interest to the New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA).

A-4626 (Mosquera)/S-497 (Vitale) allows prior statements by children to be admitted into evidence in child abuse and termination of parental rights cases. Testifying on this bill was NJSBA Trustee Jeffrey Fiorello, who urged the sponsors to consider an amendment narrowing the scope of the admission of such statements in Title 30 matters.

The intent of this bill is to apply the standard for statements made by children, which are admissible as evidence in child abuse and neglect cases in Title 9, to Title 30 cases as well. Title 9 matters determine if a child has been abused or neglected to the degree that the Division of Child Protection and Permanency should undertake care and supervision of the child. During this phase, the parent is being evaluated for services with a goal of reunification. Title 30 termination of parental rights cases consider whether the bond between the parent and child should be severed and, therefore, implicates due process rights that may make such a statute constitutionally infirm. The NJSBA continues to work with the sponsors on amendatory language to address these concerns. 

The bills await a full vote in the Senate and Assembly.

A-5890 (Swain) clarifies procedures concerning collection of child support on behalf of a child over age 19 when the court has ordered such support. Testifying on behalf of the NJSBA in support of this bill with amendments was Family Law Section Chair Sheryl Seiden and NJSBA Trustee Jeffrey Fiorello.

The bill addresses a contradiction in the statutes regarding the eligibility of child support for children who suffer severe mental or physical harm to the extent that they are financially dependent on their parents. The NJSBA supports this correction, and encourages additional changes to clarify that this is not an emancipation bill and to remove language regarding health insurance coverage.

When the bill was first signed into law in 2015, the NJSBA pointed out that the presumptive termination of child support at age 19 was contrary to New Jersey law, which provides that children are eligible for child support if they are attending school full time post high school, or in extraordinary circumstances. It also shifted the burden to demonstrate that a child is eligible for child support to the custodial parent, contrary to current law. Some concessions were made in that legislation to provide multiple notices to the custodial parent and to include in the statement of the bill that this was not an emancipation statute. The NJSBA encourages a clarifying statement within the statute and objects to new language addressing health insurance coverage. The organization continues to work with the sponsor to address these concerns.

The bill awaits a full vote in the Senate and Assembly.

A-3150 (Lampitt)/S-2133 (Cruz-Perez) mandates health benefits coverage for fertility preservation services under certain health plans.

NJSBA member Debra Guston testified in support of this bill, which mandates coverage for fertility preservation when a medically necessary treatment directly or indirectly causes iatrogenic infertility. Coverage would be available to anyone who becomes infertile as a result of an illness or health condition, which makes treatment within reach for people who otherwise would not be able to afford it. Iatrogenic infertility may result from treatment for cancer, lupus, sickle cell and autoimmune diseases, and for hormone treatment or surgery to physically affirm gender identity.

The bill was second-referenced to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.