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Family Law: Emancipation of Minors

NJ Family Law Firm

Emancipation (468)

Emancipation is the age at which a child is considered an adult and is no longer in need of financial support. As such, once a child is declared emancipated, a non-custodial parent no longer has a child support obligation for that child. In New Jersey, the presumptive age of emancipation, also known as the age of majority, is 18 years old. But this is a rebuttable presumption and often times a child will not be emancipated at 18 or even upon graduation from high school. 

In New Jersey there is no set age when a child will be declared emancipated. Each case is decided on its own merits. Therefore, it is important to consult with an experienced NJ family lawyer. To prove that a child is emancipated, the moving party must present a good case to the judge to explain why emancipation must be granted. To emancipate a child, one of the parents must ask the court to end or change the support order, or both parents can agree and sign a request for case closure. The emancipation of a child does not automatically excuse the payment of arrears that have accumulated.

A parent has a legal obligation to pay for child support until he or she is emancipated. The family courts routinely continue child support until the child completes college. Therefore, it is not unusual for a parent to support a child through his or her 20's in order for all avenues of higher education to be explored. The termination of child support only can occur if there is a changed circumstance. A changed circumstance can be the child's death, a termination of parental rights, the child gets married, the child joins the armed forces, the child graduates from high school and does not want to attend college, or the child obtains full time employment.

The emancipation of a child is reached when the fundamental dependent relationship between the parent and the child is concluded. The parent must relinquish the right to custody, and is relieved of the burden of support. Every case is always fact-sensitive and the essential inquiry is whether the child has moved beyond the sphere of influence and responsibility his or parents. Moreover, the child must obtain an independent status of her or her own.

The factors that determine whether a child has obtained an independent status is the following; a) the child's needs; b) the child's interests; c) the child's independent resources; d) the family's reasonable expectations; e) the parties' financial ability; and f) any relevant factor.

The right to receive child support belongs to the child and it cannot be waived, modified or negotiated away by the child's parents. A major doctrine of family law is that child support arrears can't be retroactively reduced. Therefore, if you win an emancipation motion, and if you owe arrears, you will still responsible for the arrears.

At the NJ family law firm of Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A., our attorneys can assist you in determining whether or not your child should be emancipated. We can also help determine what your remaining child support obligation might be if you have one child who is emancipated but another who remains unemancipated. Since child support is based on a complex calculation, it is important to seek the assistance of an attorney to see if your child support should be recalculated based on the emancipation of a child.  We, at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A., can help.



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