Is my child emancipated?

I have received many questions regarding emancipation. Many people believe that a child is automatically emancipated at the age of 18. In New Jersey, age is only one factor that courts consider.

The determination of whether a child should be emancipated is a fact-sensitive one. Filippone v. Lee, 304 N.J. Super. 301, 308 (App. Div. 1997). Several well-established principles guide the court's inquiry, which is, essentially, "whether the child has moved "beyond the sphere of influence and responsibility exercised by a parent and obtains an independent status of his or her own.'" Id. at 308 (quoting Bishop v Bishop, 287 N.J. Super. 593, 598 (Ch. Div. 1995).

This determination involves a critical evaluation of the prevailing circumstances including the child's needs, interests, and independent resources, the family's reasonable expectations, and the parties' financial ability among other things. Newburgh, supra, 88 N.J. at 545. In Newburgh, the New Jersey Supreme Court explained that emancipation can occur upon the child's marriage, induction into military service, by court order based on the child's best interest, or by attainment of an appropriate age. Ibid.

Reaching the age of majority, eighteen creates a prima facie, but not conclusive, proof of emancipation. Ibid. at 543 (citing Alford v. Somerset County Welfare Bd., 158 N.J. Super. 302 (App. Div. 1978). "Generally, parents are not under a duty to support children after the age of majority." Ibid. Thus, upon a showing the child has reached the age of majority, the opponent of emancipation must show there is basis to continue support. Fillipone, supra, 304 N.J. Super. at 308 ("although there is a presumption of emancipation at age eighteen, that presumption is rebuttable").

When a child has reached the age of majority but he/she is a full-time college student, courts will often deny emancipation. Additionally, when the child has any long term medical problems, emancipation may not be appropriate.

This blog was posted for educational purposes only. No information on this website should be construed as legal advice. Reading this blog does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

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