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Emancipation is a concept that releases a child from both the control and support of apparent. Despite popular belief, emancipation does not automatically occur when a child turns 18. The law on emancipation in New Jersey is set by case law created by the courts. There is no statute that sets forth the guidelines or concrete rules on the emancipation process. This means that each case is fact-specific and looked at differently from any other when considered by a judge.

Children that attend higher education are not emancipated at the age of 18 and Courts hold are still owed the duty of support. Two concepts that should not be confused are the age of majority and emancipation.

A child’s enrollment in high school or post-secondary education (college), a child’s pregnancy or motherhood, while unmarried and still requiring support, and a child with physical or mental disability do not necessarily automatically prohibit one from becoming emancipated but can delay emancipation.

However, a child is legally emancipated when the child gets married irrespective of age because one cannot legally rely on one’s parents for financial support. In addition, enrollment in the military will emancipate a child.

Emancipation is a fact sensitive determination that can only be made by a judge. The general standard used by the judge in determining whether an individual has become legally emancipated is stated in Bishop v. Bishop: “when a child moves beyond the sphere of influence and responsibility exercised by a parent and obtains an independent status on his or her own”.

There are several ways to emancipate your child. One way is to have Court Order entered which can be done by consent with the other parent. Alternatively, a post-judgment motion must be filed seeking the same relief, but often times is a difficult process. Although a common motion filed in the Courts, it is extremely facts sensitive and it is important to know the law and which facts to bring to the Court’s attention. Gourvitz & Gourvitz, LLC knows which facts are relevant and important, and those that are not. If you are looking to emancipate your child, contact Gourvitz & Gourvitz, LLC to help you with this process.

Lastly, it is important to remember that once an individual is emancipated, there are a few effects it will have on his or her life. Legally speaking, the emancipated individual will be treated as an adult for all purposes, including in any criminal matters they may face. This means that an emancipated individual under the age of 18 will appear in an adult criminal court, be responsible for paying any fines and receive an adult level of sentencing if found guilty.

An emancipated minor is also treated as an adult for financial purposes. He or she will now be solely responsible for any financial debts, loans or credit in his or her name. There is no longer the option to rely on mom or dad to pay for their finances. An emancipated minor is responsible for taking care of his or her lifestyle from the moment the emancipation is finalized.

Furthermore, once emancipation occurs there are very few circumstances to “un-do” the emancipation, although “unemancipating” a child can be done in very limited situations.