In a recent unpublished opinion in Gall v. Gall, our Appellate Division reversed the trial court that had awarded child support for the parties’ twenty (20) year old son who was living at home with mom at the time of trial. He was working full-time, had purchased himself a car, and was paying all of his personal expenses with his earnings but he testified that he was not earning enough to live on his own and that he intended to register to be a full-time student in the spring semester. He was attending part-time and had a 2.5 average. The trial court awarded child support because it found that he was a full-time student.
On appeal, the Appellate Division found that the court’s reasoning was based on a future event, which was his anticipated full-time enrollment, and that was not appropriate. They also went on to state, “A child over the age of eighteen, working full-time, and attending school only part-time, absent some unusual circumstances not evident in this record, is emancipated even if residing with a parent because his or her employment income is alleged to be insufficient to allow the child to live independently.”
This is an interesting blow to the theory that children cannot be considered emancipated if they are not “beyond the sphere of influence” of their parents. In this instance, it was undisputed that the child could not live on his own but that was not enough to prevent his emancipation on the basis that he was not attending school full-time. Clearly, today’s economic climate and the inability to make a self-supporting wage was not a compelling enough argument to persuade the Appellate Division that he should not be considered emancipated.
As always, the issue of emancipation in New Jersey is a fact-sensitive inquiry that an experienced Family Law practitioner can help you work your way through. Posted by Elizabeth A. Calandrillo, Esq.