Emancipation of a Child – Not So Fast

When does a parent’s obligation to pay child support end? Contrary to what many people believe, it doesn’t end when the child turns 18 years of age.
Under New Jersey law, parents are responsible for supporting thier children until they are emancipated. Emancipation is defined as when the child “moves beyond the sphere of influence of their parents”. Typical emancipation events include the child’s completion of college, marriage or joining the military.
But emancipation is not always so clear. Even if a child takes off a semester (or two) from school, that child may not be deemed emancipated. This area of law is very fertile for hotly contested litigation. For example, what happens when a child withdraws from half of his classes? What happens if he fails classes? What happens if she is on a seven-year pace to graduate college?
Emancipation issues are very fact-specific; meaning that every case is different. While judges often give the benefit of doubt to the child (a product of a broken household), at a certain point, the judge is likely to say “enough is enough” and declare the child emancipated (thus relieving the parents of a child support obligation).


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