Divorce & Emancipation

By Jennifer F. Bender

Divorce brings a marriage to a legal end and divides property between two individuals. Another issue decided in a divorce is the living arrangements and financial responsibility for any minor children. Both parents are obligated to provide for their minor children until the children become emancipated. Emancipation means that a child is considered financially able to care for himself. Emancipation occurs at different ages in different states. The most common age of emancipation is 18; however, in some states, it's 19 or when a dependent child finishes high school.

Divorce brings a marriage to a legal end and divides property between two individuals. Another issue decided in a divorce is the living arrangements and financial responsibility for any minor children. Both parents are obligated to provide for their minor children until the children become emancipated. Emancipation means that a child is considered financially able to care for himself. Emancipation occurs at different ages in different states. The most common age of emancipation is 18; however, in some states, it's 19 or when a dependent child finishes high school.

Child Support

In divorce proceedings, emancipation of a minor child means that child support obligations end for the parents. Some courts extend the emancipation period for child support payments until the child reaches the age of 19 or graduates from high school. Even when child support obligations end, some courts direct the parents to continue financial payments to cover four years of the child's college education. Some parents agree on their own volition to continue child support payments until they feel their child can financially support himself.

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Tax Deduction

Emancipation of a child also brings an end to the dependent tax deduction for that child. In a divorce settlement, the parents arrive at an agreement regarding which taxpayer will claim the child as a deduction of the year-end tax return. The Code of Federal Regulations Title 26 Section 1.152-4 states, "A taxpayer may claim a dependency deduction for a child, only if the child is the qualifying child of the taxpayer under section 152(c)." Typically, the parent with whom the child resides for a longer period of time during the taxable year is the parent who claims the child as a dependent. Once the child reaches emancipation and financially provides for himself, the child can claim himself on his own tax return.

Factors

Courts grant emancipation earlier when children or parents present sufficient evidence that emancipation would be in the best interest of the child. Factors considered include the child's age and his mental and physical welfare. Courts are hesitant to grant emancipation early to children because parents are legally responsible for maintaining basic support to their children. Emancipation will not be granted solely because the parent no longer wants to be financially and legally responsible for their minor children following a divorce.

Actions

Certain actions by the child can also bring about emancipation prior to reaching the age of emancipation given by state statutes. If a child gets married prior to the age of emancipation, the parent no longer is required to support the child. Another action is when a child enters the military. This act shows that the child is prepared to take care of himself legally and financially. Voluntarily leaving a parent's home also shows that a child wants to emancipate himself from the support of his family.

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How to Get Child Support Dropped if the Child is 18

References

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Child Support & Emancipation Laws

Under typical circumstances, the parents of a minor child have certain financial and physical responsibilities towards their child. However, in some cases, parental responsibility can be legally ended through a process called emancipation. After a child becomes legally emancipated from his parents, the parents have no further financial responsibility for the child, or child support obligations. Laws regarding emancipation and child support vary from state to state.

Does Child Support End When the Child Graduates From High School?

Graduation from high school may or may not end your obligation to pay child support. It depends on two main factors, the statutory requirements in the state the child resides and any contractual obligations you agreed to in writing, usually during a divorce proceeding. Generally, by the time a child graduates from high school, he becomes an adult in the eyes of the law, thereby terminating your duty to pay child support. But there are many exceptions to the general rule.

Can a Part-Time College Student Over 18 Years Old Receive Child Support?

Although children become adults at age 18, this doesn't necessarily mean that their dependency upon their parents suddenly stops. Typically, child support stops when a child reaches the age of majority, but child support law varies by state. Some states do allow child support to continue past age 18 and graduation from high school. Whether or not you can receive support for your child after she reaches age 18 depends upon where you live.

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