When is a Child Emancipated?

In a divorce or a stand-alone child custody case, a court must craft a court order providing for custody, visitation, and child support.  As the child ages, the child’s needs will change and often parents will need to return to court to revisit the issues of visitation or child support.  In some cases, a child will become independent and move out once he or she turns eighteen.  In other cases, a child will continue to rely on parents for several more years, as he or she goes to college.  The issue of when a child is independent and no longer requires the support from the parents takes the form of disputes over emancipation.

Emancipation usually means that a child is no longer controlled by the parent and no longer depends on a parent for financial support.  A common misconception is that a child is automatically considered emancipated at the age of eighteen, but this is not true.  In New Jersey, a new law took effect on February 1, 2017 which states that a child is automatically assumed to be emancipated, and support will accordingly cease, once the child turns nineteen years old.  Both parents will be sent a notice from the court of the pending support termination, and the parent receiving support my file a motion requesting that the child not be found to be emancipated.  A parent requesting the continuation of support must show that the child is not actually emancipated.  This is done by showing that there is an acceptable reason to consider the child not emancipated.  These reasons can include the child still being in high school, the child being enrolled full-time in college, or the child having a mental or physical disability.  Note that in the case of proving the child is enrolled in college and therefore is not emancipated, there are document requirements to prove enrollment on a full-time basis.  Simply bringing an acceptance letter will not be enough. 

If you have questions about whether your child is emancipated, call us today at (732) 529-6937 to talk about your case. We can help you understand the law in New Jersey and your obligations.
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