Maryland Emancipation & Child Support Rules

By Brenna Davis

Noncustodial parents have a legal obligation to support their minor children and generally must pay child support to the custodial parent to cover a portion of the child's expenses. The noncustodial parent must continue paying child support until the child reaches the age of majority or is legally emancipated, even if the custodial parent remarries or her income increases. Child support is a right of the child and cannot be waived by the custodial parent.

Noncustodial parents have a legal obligation to support their minor children and generally must pay child support to the custodial parent to cover a portion of the child's expenses. The noncustodial parent must continue paying child support until the child reaches the age of majority or is legally emancipated, even if the custodial parent remarries or her income increases. Child support is a right of the child and cannot be waived by the custodial parent.

Child Support Basics

Divorced parents in Maryland are legally responsible for supporting their children until they become legally recognized adults, at the age of 18 or judicially emancipated prior to 18. Judges issue child support awards based on the income of each parent, the time each parent spends with the child, the specific needs of the child and the standard of living to which the child was accustomed prior to the divorce. Child support obligations generally increase along with the parent's income, but unlike some states, Maryland does not establish a level of support based on a specific percentage of the parent's income. Parents may seek a reduction in child support by petitioning the court that originally issued the child support order. In most cases, child support payments in Maryland are deducted directly from the parent's paycheck in the form of a garnishment.

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Emancipation

In Maryland, the age of majority at which children become legally recognized as adults is 18, but emancipation allows a minor to be recognized as an adult prior to that age. The courts in Maryland may grant emancipation if a minor marries, joins the military, demonstrates that they are living separately from their parents and have a source of income, or in cases of parental neglect and abuse. Children cannot be legally emancipated until their parents, a guardian or a governmental agency petition the courts for emancipation, and child support obligations continue until a judge issues an emancipation order. Judges are unlikely to allow young teenagers to become emancipated, even if they are working, but teenagers 16 and over are likely to win petitions for emancipation if they prove to the court they will be self-supporting.

Emancipation Procedure

Children may create unofficial written or oral agreements, with their parents allowing them to live on their own or limiting the parent's control over the child's money. But these agreements have no legal status, and the parent may still be responsible for child support payments in the eyes of the law. Parents or other interested parties may seek an official judicial order authorizing emancipation, by petitioning the juvenile court in the county in which the child resides. A clerk will schedule a hearing on the emancipation at which time the judge hears any objections. If the judge finds there is cause to emancipate the child, he will issue an order of emancipation, effectively declaring that the minor is an adult for all purposes.

Back Child Support

Emancipation absolves parents of future child support, but will not eliminate their duties to pay previously owed child support. Failure to pay child support in Maryland can result in wage garnishment, contempt citations and even imprisonment.

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Legal Age a Child Can Refuse Contact by Divorced Parents

References

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When Can Child Support Be Terminated in Kentucky?

In Kentucky, child support usually terminates when a child reaches the age of majority, which under Kentucky law, occurs when the child reaches age 18, unless he is still in high school or is handicapped. Usually, child support obligations ordered by a Kentucky court terminate automatically when the child reaches age 18 and graduates from high school. However, there are some exceptions to this general rule in which additional circumstances or court intervention must take place before a parent can legally stop paying child support.

How to Get Child Support Dropped if the Child is 18

When one parent is paying child support, the support ends upon the child's emancipation, which is when the child can legally act as an adult. However, emancipation does not always occur when a child turns 18. State laws vary concerning emancipation. Furthermore, a divorce decree can order that a parent continue paying child support while a child is enrolled in college. For these reasons, it is essential that you carefully review your divorce decree and your state's child support guidelines prior to making any changes to your child support payments.

Does Child Support Go to the Children After They Move Out?

Generally, child support terminates once the child moves out of his parent's home to live independently. Support is meant to benefit the child, but payment is ordered to the custodial parent to cover the noncustodial parent's share of child rearing expenses. State statutes specify conditions that turn a child into an adult, for support purposes. In most states, moving out of the parent's home to live independently qualifies as a transition into adulthood that terminates the support obligation.

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