Ever Wonder What 'Emancipation' Means?

The legal obligation to pay child support ends with the emancipation of the child.  Emancipation is a term that generally describes the transition from “minor” to “adult” in which the child becomes free from parental control, and the parents are no longer legally responsible for the acts of the child.  An emancipated person may legally sign binding contracts; marry without parental permission; give medical consent; and enjoy the many other manner of social, legal and financial benefits and obligations of an adult.  Depending on the state and other considerations, emancipation usually occurs at the age of 18.

But Not Always

Emancipation does not, however, necessarily mean “legal majority,” and may be granted earlier in instances where the minor can demonstrate they are at least sixteen years old; are living apart from the parents with their consent or acquiescence; able to manage their own finances and have a legal source of income; actively serve in a branch of the armed forces; or other reason the court may determine it in the best interest of the child to make a judicial declaration of emancipation.  Or it may be established at a later age, especially in cases where the children are mentally or physically challenged to the extent that they’re unable to support themselves or make their own decisions; or in situations previously agreed upon by the parents.

Although most states usually hold that a parent is not responsible for college expenses by paying child support, there may be extenuating circumstances which may prevent the children from being declared emancipated.  In some cases, continued academics in higher education may allow some rights or privileges of adulthood to be withheld until a later date; or conversely, if the children were held back and attended high school on a full-time basis, but have passed the age of majority.  Additionally, working in a full-time job does not emancipate the children, nor releases a non-custodial parent from paying child support.