Many people believe that emancipation in the state of New Jersey automatically occurs when a child turns 18 years old. While a child over the age of 18 may no longer be considered a “minor,” the 18th birthday does not bring automatic emancipation. Therefore, there is not an automatic end to child support once a child turns 18.
There are various facts that a Court will consider in making a determination as to whether child is emancipated and support should be terminated. Emancipation is a legal term, which by definition means “the act if freeing or the state of being freed.” In the case of children, it means no longer being under the control of a parent, and therefore no longer needing the support of that parent. New Jersey precedent dictates that in order for a child to be considered emancipated he or she must no longer be under the “sphere of influence” of the parent. Many factual considerations could affect this determination. Is the child working and supporting him/herself financially? Is the child still in college? Does the child continue to reside with one or both of the parents? Does the child have special needs that would cause him/her to require continued assistance from parents despite his/her age? The facts that a Court will take into consideration to decide whether a child should be deemed emancipated are somewhat subjective in nature. There is no age where there is an automatic cut off of support, as far as the Courts are concerned.
The only way to ensure that there are clearly defined terms and conditions as to a child’s emancipation, or even a strict age limit as to when child support will end, is to have a carefully and thoughtfully drafted agreement. An agreement can clearly list triggering events for the end of child support, which will help to eliminate unnecessary conflict at your child’s 18th birthday party. Posted by Robyn E. Ross, Esq.