In most states, parents and legal guardians are responsible for their child’s well-being up to age 18 or 19. This includes ensuring the child is provided adequate food, shelter, medical care, schooling, clothing, and other incidentals.
If a minor becomes emancipated, they assume responsibility for their own financial support and welfare and are not under the care of their parents. There are several reasons why a child might want to be emancipated.
Reasons for Seeking Emancipation
Children seek emancipation for many reasons, with the goal of achieving legal independence from their guardians or parents. The two most common reasons are:
- Unsafe conditions in the home
- Physical and emotional abuse
Other factors that may give rise to a request for emancipation include when parents take their children’s money for their own personal use, take out loans in their children’s names that put the children into debt, and other types of mistreatment.
Minors who get married or join the military are automatically emancipated. In other situations, applicants must go through the correct legal channels as specified by their state of residence. State laws vary, but in many instances, an emancipation can be granted by court judges.
Evidence may be required to prove that emancipation is in the child’s or parents’ best interests. The child might also need to prove that they are capable of living apart from their guardians, that they can support themselves financially, and that they are mature enough to care for themselves. Parents may contest the petition for emancipation if they feel it will not be in the child’s best interest.
Once the legal process is complete, the minor will be considered an adult and will be legally responsible for their own personal and financial matters. Child support will be terminated, unless there is an outstanding child support debt.
Once emancipated, the child is entitled to certain rights, which vary from state to state. He or she may enroll in a school of their choosing, apply for a permit to work, make choices for their healthcare, and sign legal contracts for rentals, purchases, and the like.
Child Support Emancipation Laws in NJ
In February of 2017, the New Jersey Emancipation Statute went into effect. Under this law, children are emancipated when they turn 19, which likely ends child support. Parents can request a child support continuation until the child turns 23, or completes their college education. This must be done in the form of a written request to the court prior to the child’s 19th birthday.
If the support is managed by the Probation Division, a notice will be sent to both parents or guardians about six months before the child turns 19. If neither parent responds or requests an extension, the obligation terminates on the child’s birthday.
Circumstances for continuing child support after age 19 include having a child with mental or physical disabilities, or if the child is still in high school or attending college.
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