Emancipation Under New Jersey Law
Emancipation occurs when a child is legally released from both the control and the support of his or her parent(s). This means that the parent can no longer make decisions for the child and the child is no longer entitled to financial support from the parent. Child support payments, whatever their amount, are typically contemplated to end when the child for whose benefit those payments are made reaches the legal status of emancipation. However, there are many times when child support payment obligations are designed to extend beyond the age of majority. There are children whose special circumstances can render them emancipated prior to achieving the age of majority.
An emancipated minor is a child under the age of 18 who has become emancipated because they can support themselves and are independent of parental control. This could happen, for example, if a minor moves out of the family home, works full-time or gets married before 18 years of age.
The legal status of emancipation is not synonymous with the child reaching the age of majority in New Jersey. Contrary to popular belief, turning 18 does not automatically trigger emancipation. In some cases even children who have turned 18 continue to be dependent upon their parents and therefore, are not considered emancipated. Examples of this include a child over 18 who is still in college and relies upon his or her parents for financial or other support, or a child with a pre-existing disability which prevents him or her from gaining complete independence from his or her parents.
How is Emancipation Determined?
When a New Jersey court is faced with a request for emancipation, the court must examine all of the facts and circumstances in order to determine whether or not the child has reached an independent status. Although age plays an important role in making the determination of whether a child has reached emancipation, it is not the only factor a court will consider. Other factors that a court will consider when making the determination of whether a child has obtained an independent status include: the child’s needs, interests, and independent resources; the family’s reasonable expectation; the parties’ financial abilities; and any other factor the court believes is relevant to the decision.
Is Your Child Legally Emancipated?
If you are a parent in New Jersey and are paying child support payments for the support of a child who you believe should be characterized as emancipated in the eyes of the law, you must file papers with the New Jersey court that handled your child custody matter.
In those papers, you will ask the court to issue an order terminating your child support payments. In order to have the court grant that request, you must show that the child is now living under circumstances materially different from the circumstances that obtained when the child support payment obligation was originally structured.
Again, the changed circumstances you would cite in this context would be that your child no longer needs your financial support. In the event the court finds that your child no longer needs the child support payments, owing to the changed circumstances you cite in your court papers, then the court will declare your child emancipated and your child support obligation will end. As with other issues under New Jersey family law, it is best to seek the counsel of a competent attorney experienced in New Jersey family law.
Contact Certified Matrimonial Attorney Vincent DeLuca
Vincent C. DeLuca of Villani & DeLuca, P.C., is certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court as a Matrimonial Attorney. Mr. DeLuca is one of a limited number of attorneys to hold the prestigious certification of Matrimonial Attorney in New Jersey. Mr. DeLuca, whose practice is devoted to family law in Ocean County and Monmouth County, is one of only five certified Matrimonial Attorneys on the Roster of Mediators for Economic Aspects of Family Law in Ocean County, New Jersey. Call (732) 965-3350 for a free initial consultation.