There has been a lot of talk recently about our new child support statute and the misconceptions surrounding it. Some people have misinterpreted the law to mean a child is automatically emancipated at age 19. This is not true. There is no established age at which a child becomes emancipated. A child is emancipated when they are self-sufficient and have moved beyond the sphere of influence of their parents. This is ordinarily deemed upon a child earning a four- or five-year undergraduate degree. However, it is important to remember that under the right circumstances, and in accord with the facts of a particular case, a child may still be deemed unemancipated while attending graduate school such as medical or law school. After all, if the parents had never divorced, they would have contributed to their child’s continued education together. Accordingly, divorced parents can be compelled to contribute to their child’s graduate school education and continue to pay child support.
In the Ross case, the party’s daughter was a first-year law student, and the court held she was not emancipated and child support was to be paid until she graduated from law school. The noncustodial parent argued that the daughter had the means to become employed after undergraduate school and attend law school part-time. The court ruled that the noncustodial parent has no right to suggest or alter the daughter’s goal of furthering her education.
Emancipation, when child support terminates, is very fact sensitive and case specific. Should you have questions or concerns about emancipation, do not hesitate to call.
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