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An unemancipated child is one who is dependent on his or her parents. You may tend to think of children not being dependent on their parents once they become adults at the age of 18, however, an 18 year old does not automatically become independent and self-supporting simply because he or she celebrated a birthday. For child support purposes emancipation may occur later in the child’s life, particularly when the child is attending college or otherwise still in need of parental support.

Unemancipation of a Child in NJ

In New Jersey, the emancipation of a child represents “the conclusion of the fundamental dependent relationship between parent and child.” Dolce v. Dolce
The courts give guidance on what causes the emancipation of a child in the 2012 case of Majid Reza Azimi V. Colleen Mcveigh–Azimi. There, the court said that emancipation might occur due to the child’s marriage, a court order, or reaching the appropriate age. At age eighteen there is a presumption that the child is emancipated, however that presumption can be overcome.

Unemancipation in NJ and College Expenses - Majid Reza Azimi V. Colleen Mcveigh–Azimi

In the Azimi case, the parents of a child were married but separated before she was born. When the couple divorced in 1992, the court obligated the plaintiff (the father) was to pay child support of $125 per week to the defendant (the mother). The father contended that he had a limited and strained relationship with the child despite his efforts to be in her life.

In 2010 the father sought to emancipate the child and terminate his support and insurance obligations. The mother did not oppose the father’s request, so the judge emancipated the child as of her high school graduation date. Soon after, the mother filed a motion requiring the father to pay child support (including arrears) and insurance coverage, and to contribute to the costs of the child’s college education. The case went in front of a judge who unemancipated the child, reestablished child support and insurance coverage, and increased the child support to $231 per week (though the mother had not sought an increase in support). The father appealed that ruling, which brings us to the Appellate Division’s ruling in 2012.

The Court stated that although parents generally do not have to support their children after they have become adults, some exceptions are well established, such as college expenses, which are at issue in this case. The Azimi court held that even though an adult child has been formally emancipated, he or she may still be unemancipated to receive support in the form of college contributions. The court left intact the part of the previous order that unemancipated the child, but vacated the child support, insurance, and college costs until a lower court judge could conduct a hearing to determine whether and how much the father would have to contribute.

The specific and unique facts of the Azimi case are what lead to the outcome, but the case gives guidance on issues of unemancipation of a child in NJ. If you have questions about your own case, call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at 201-845-7400 for a consultation with a NJ child support lawyer.


Majid Reza Azimi V. Colleen Mcveigh–Azimi, Docket No. a-0207-11T4 (NJ Sup Ct. App. Div. 2012)
Dolce v. Dolce, 383 N.J.Super. 11, 17 (App.Div.2006)
Filippone v. Lee, 304 N.F. Super. 301 (App. Div. 1997)

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