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Emancipation of a Child

Courts will impose upon parents an obligation to support their children financially until they are emancipated. In New Jersey there are several ways a child can become emancipated (or a legal adult in the eyes of the Court). The agreed upon impetuses of emancipation are as follows:

  • A child has reached the age of 18 and graduated high school, without pursuing a college degree
  • The child marries
  • The child becomes an active member of the armed forces
  • The child is no longer pursuing education and is working full-time

The courts are only asked to render a decision as to whether a child is emancipated in cases where the facts and circumstances are not as clear cut as above. In these cases, the issue is whether the child is still within the sphere of influence of the parents or whether the child has obtained an independent status of his/her own.

Often times, the issue of emancipation comes up when the parent obligated to pay the child support feels their child is no longer in need of the support for whatever reason, files a motion to terminate the support and the opposing parent objects. However, even when the parents may agree, the child, with whom the right to support belongs, may object to the emancipation designation.

In a recent case out of Union County, New Jersey, both parents agreed that the support for their daughter should be terminated and the court agreed. The parties' 20 year old daughter appealed, as a child's right to support is also not "defeated merely because both parents are united in their determination to declare the child emancipated." Johnson v. Bradbury, 233 N.J. Super. 129, 136 (App. Div. 1989). The trial court determined, and the appellate court affirmed, that the child was emancipated based upon the following facts: The daughter moved out of her mother's home voluntarily and went to live with her biological father. She sporadically attended college, was employed and arranged to have her expenses paid for by the wife of her biological father. The Court found it important that the daughter's issues with anxiety and depression did not interfere with her ability to be independent, that her parents had not supported her after she moved out of her mother's home, and she voluntarily had determined to rely upon the financial support of others.

If you have questions about emancipation of a child, contact a family law attorney at Miller & Gaudio today.

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