Emancipation Of A Child In New Jersey

By Peter Van Aulen, Esq.

EMANCIPATION DEFINED

Often I have clients ask me if they have to pay child support after their child reaches the age of 18. My answer is that it depends on whether the child is emancipated. Emancipation is when the fundamental dependant relationship between the parent and child has ended. Bishop v. Bishop, 287 N.J. Super. 593,598(Ch.Div.1995).

ATTAINMENT OF THE AGE 18 AND COLLEGE

The Court in Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529, 543 (1982) held that although emancipation does not have to occur at any particular age, there is a rebuttable presumption against emancipation prior to attaining the age of 18. Id. The Newburgh Court stated that the child’s attainment of the age of 18 “establishes prima facie”, but not conclusive evidence of emancipation. Id. The court in Newburgh declared that whether a child is emancipated at 18 depends on the facts of each case. Id. The fact-sensitive inquiry is 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” Bishop v. Bishop, 287 N.J.Super.593, 598 (Ch.Div.1995). The Courts in New Jersey have held that children enrolled in a full time undergraduate program are not emancipated and the parents are required to continue to make support payments. Limpert V. Limpert, 119 N.J.Super.441,443-443 (App.Div.1972). Also, the court in Keegan v. Keegan, 326 N.J. Super 289 (App.Div.1999) held that a child’s brief hiatus from college did not emancipate said child. Further, the Court in Ross v. Ross, 167 N.J. Super.441, 445-448(Ch.Div.1979) held that a twenty-three year old child who was pursuing a post-graduate law degree was not emancipated, and the father had to continue to pay child support.

A CHILD HAVING A CHILD

The Court in Filippone v. Filippone, 304 N.J. Super 301, 309 (App.Div.1997) held that a financially dependant teenager who ga-ve birth to a child was not emancipated and her mother had to continue to pay child support. The child in Filippone became pregnant and gave birth to a child while in high school. The child did not marry the father of her child who provided her with nominal support for the baby. The child continued to live home with her father, attended high school then college and relied on the parental support “to meet her personal and educational needs.” Id. The Filippone court’s rationale was that the child was dependent on parental support and the fact that she gave birth to a child did not disqualify her from receiving said support. Id.

DRUG ADDICTION

The Court in Baldino v.Baldino, 241 N.J. Super. 414, 421 (Ch.Div.1990) held that a child’s voluntary drug addiction will not prevent a finding of emancipation which otherwise would be made. In Baldino the child left high school at seventeen and entered a drug rehabilitation program. The child completed said program, returned to high school and graduated at nineteen. He then declined to pursue college, held ten different jobs, and then resumed using drugs. The court reasoned that to require parents to financially support a “voluntarily addicted child beyond the point whereby that child would otherwise be emancipated” exceeded the authority of the court and would be equivalent to a “condonation of the addiction and supporting the illegal act itself.” Id at 421. However, the Court in L.D. v. K.D., 315 N. J. Super. 71, 76 (Ch.Div.1998) held that the holding in Baldino did not apply to a drug dependant nineteen year old who after failing her last year of high school enrolled in a drug rehabilitation program which also provided GED classes. The court in L.D. distinguished Baldino by finding that the daughter was always financially dependant upon her mother who used the child support from the father to pay for the daughter’s living expenses. Id at 76-77. The Baldino court found that said daughter never moved past the sphere of “influence and responsibility” exerted by her parents and never achieved an independent status of her own. Id at 77. As seen from the above emancipation, cases are very fact sensitive. If you are facing emancipation issue call Peter Van Aulen today at (201) 845-7400 for a free 30 minute in office consultation.

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