Emancipation

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 by statute that was enacted on February 1, 2017, and applies to all Child Support Orders.

Prior to that date, New Jersey law set no particular age at which a child became emancipated (not subject to the parent’s control and not entitled to parent financial support). Under the new laws, known as the New Jersey Emancipation Statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:17-56.67 to 56.73, a child is emancipated at age 19, and, therefore, child support generally ends at that time, but  a parent may request a continuation of child support up to age 23.  Parties may also agree in any divorce agreement (Marital Settlement Agreement) to set different parameters for emancipation.  The Statute specifically states:

2A:17-56.67 Termination of obligation to pay child support.
1. a. Unless otherwise provided in a court order or judgment, the obligation to pay child support shall terminate by operation of law without order by the court on the date that a child marries, dies, or enters the military service. In addition, a child support obligation shall terminate by operation of law without order by the court when a child reaches 19 years of age unless:
(1)another age for the termination of the obligation to pay child support, which shall not extend beyond the date the child reaches 23 years of age, is specified in a court order;
(2)a written request seeking the continuation of child support is submitted to the court by a custodial parent prior to the child reaching the age of 19 in accordance with subsection b. of this section; or
(3)the child receiving support is in an out-of-home placement through the Division of Child Protection and Permanency in the Department of Children and Families.
b. (1) In response to a notice of proposed termination of child support issued in accordance with subsection d. of this section, a custodial parent may submit a written request, on a form and within timeframes promulgated by the Administrative Office of the Courts, with supporting documentation to the court, including a projected future date when support will terminate, seeking the continuation of child support beyond the date the child reaches 19 years of age in the following circumstances:
(a)the child is still enrolled in high school or other secondary educational program;
(b)the child is a student in a post-secondary education program and is enrolled for the number of hours or courses the school considers to be full-time attendance during some part of each of any five calendar months of the year; or
(c)the child has a physical or mental disability, as determined by a federal or State government agency, that existed prior to the child reaching the age of 19 and requires continued child support.
(2)A custodial parent may file a motion with the court seeking to extend the obligation to pay child support beyond the date the child reaches 19 years of age due to exceptional circumstances as may be approved by the court.
c.If the court finds that the request form and supporting documentation submitted by the custodial parent establish sufficient proof to continue the child support beyond the date a child reaches 19 years of age pursuant to paragraph (1) of subsection b. of this section, the child support obligation shall not be terminated by operation of law when the child reaches the age of 19, and the court shall issue an order establishing the prospective date of child support termination. A copy of the court order shall be provided to both parents of the child. A parent responsible for paying child support who disagrees with the court’s decision to continue child support beyond the date the child reaches 19 years of age or who otherwise desires to modify or terminate the child support obligation may, at any time, file a motion with the court seeking relief from that obligation.
d.For child support orders that are administered by the Probation Division of the Superior Court, the Probation Division and the State IV-D agency shall cooperatively provide both parents with at least two written notices of a proposed termination of child support, which shall include information and the request form to facilitate the continuation of child support beyond the date the child reaches 19 years of age. The first notice shall be sent at least 180 days prior to the proposed termination date, and the second notice shall be sent at least 90 days prior to the proposed termination date. The second notice shall not be required whenever a custodial parent’s request for continuation is pending or a new date of child support termination has been established. To the extent feasible, the Probation Division and the State IV-D agency shall cooperatively provide additional notice to the parents by text message, telephone message, or other electronic means. In addition, all orders and judgments that include a child support obligation entered after the effective date of P.L.2015, c.223 (C.2A:17-56.67 et seq.) shall contain information regarding the termination of child support obligations as provided in P.L.2015, c.223 (C.2A:17-56.67 et seq.).
e.Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, the obligation to pay child support shall terminate by operation of law when a child reaches 23 years of age. The Probation Division and the State IV-D agency shall cooperatively provide both parents with a written notice of termination at least 90 days prior to the termination date and, to the extent feasible, the Probation Division and the State IV-D agency shall cooperatively provide additional notice to the parents by text message, telephone message, or other electronic means. Nothing in this section shall be construed to:
(1)prevent a child who is beyond 23 years of age from seeking a court order requiring the payment of other forms of financial maintenance or reimbursement from a parent as authorized by law to the extent that such financial maintenance or reimbursement is not payable or enforceable as child support as defined in section 3 of P.L.1998, c.1 (C.2A:17-56.52); or
(2)prevent the court, upon application of a parent or child, from converting, due to exceptional circumstances including, but not limited to, a mental or physical disability, a child support obligation to another form of financial maintenance for a child who has reached the age of 23.

Prior to the Child’s 19th birth, in the absence of an agreement, the receiving parent may file an application to extend support.

It is important to remember that children usually attend higher education and are not emancipated at the age of 18 and Courts believe that parents still owe 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.

Gourvitz & Gourvitz, LLC knows which facts are relevant and important, and those that are not. If you are looking to emancipate your child, or seek a continuation of child support beyond your child’s 19th birthday, contact Gourvitz & Gourvitz, LLC to help you with this process.

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.