Does A Leave from College Justify Emancipation?

Does A Child’s Brief Hiatus From Attending College Support A Finding of Emancipation In New Jersey?

teen driverIn New Jersey, a child is not automatically emancipated from his or her parents at age eighteen. This means that child support obligations to the child can continue into his or her adulthood if the court deems it necessary. One common circumstance for continued child support is if the young man or woman enrolls in college and remains financially dependent on his or her parents.

New Jersey emancipates young adults when they are financially independent of their parents. This usually means when they finish their post-secondary education and can work to support themselves. The New Jersey legal system recognizes the difficulty of making ends meet while pursuing higher education, and will almost always err on the side of continuing child support for a student currently pursuing a degree, even if that student is employed while enrolled in college.

When a college student stops attending school without graduating, the question of emancipation is often raised. Parents might wonder if they are required to continue to support a grown child who is capable of finding full-time work and supporting him or herself.

Each Student’s Circumstances are Unique

The answer is that every family’s situation is unique and will be treated as such by the court. In short, the court may emancipate a young adult who is on hiatus from college. If there is no physical or mental disability that prevents a grown child from finding work, he or she could be expected to do so. However, the court recognizes that a break from college can have many different causes and results, and will evaluate each case with these in mind. Factors that the court may consider when deciding whether or not to emancipate a grown child are the length of the break and the reason given for it.

If the court decides to emancipate the young man or woman, then he or she decides later to return to college and become financially dependent again, the court is not required to revert him or her to unemancipated status. However, it has happened before in New Jersey and if your child can prove that he or she is only temporarily out of college and will not be able to financially support him or herself once he or she begins studies again, the court may require child support obligations to resume.

The following are reasons why a young adult may be emancipated in New Jersey:

  • He or she enters the military
  • He or she gets married
  • He or she maintains a residence separate from both parents. This does not include temporary housing such as boarding school, summer camp or a college dormitory
  • She or he becomes employed full-time
  • The young adult dies
  • The grown child completes his or her post-secondary education

These terms are discussed and agreed upon during child support hearings. Individual families may clearly state when they want child support to end and if agreed upon, write it into the terms of their divorce settlement. If this is not clarified, the above reasons dictate when child support obligations cease.

In most cases, parents must petition for their grown child to be emancipated. One parent can write to the court and request that his or her child be emancipated, or both can sign an agreement that their adult child no longer needs financial support from his or her parents. Emancipation is a complex topic with many potential circumstances. It requires judges and families to question the line between childhood and adulthood, a line that can be blurred and manipulated by personal decisions and our changing society’s expectations.

Villani & DeLuca, P.C.

The family law attorneys at Villani & DeLuca, P.C. are quite familiar with these types of issues and have litigated them many times. Should you have any questions as to whether or not your child should be deemed emancipated, please feel free to contact Villani & DeLuca, P.C. to arrange a free consultation with family law partner, Vincent C. DeLuca, Esquire. Mr. DeLuca has successfully argued emancipation applications many times throughout the family courts in the State of New Jersey. If you have any questions, please contact us at (732) 965-3350 to schedule a free initial consultation at the law offices of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.

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