Age of Emancipation
The law passed in 2012 changed the age for emancipation of a minor child from 21 to 19. Parents typically do not have a legal obligation to provide for their children after the child becomes a legal adult, so child support obligations can now end at 19 instead of 21. Even if a child is still living at home and dependent on his parents after he turns 19, the noncustodial parent can be released from his obligation to pay support.
Petition to Emancipate
It is up to the noncustodial parent to file a Petition to Emancipate with the court, which allows the court to officially terminate the parent’s support obligations. Child support obligations do not automatically terminate when the child reaches 19, so the paying parent must take steps to terminate obligations. The court can modify the child support order if only one child is eligible for emancipation while younger children still require support. If the parent is no longer supporting any other children, the court can terminate the child support order.
If a noncustodial parent already agreed to pay a child’s college expenses in the divorce settlement agreement, he is still required to pay, and the 2012 law does not impact his payments. Similarly, if a court ordered the noncustodial parent to pay college expenses in the divorce decree, the 2012 law has no effect on the case.
The 2012 law requires children and parents to petition the court to ask for contributions to college expenses from the noncustodial parent before the child turns 19 rather than before he turns 21, which was the deadline in the old law. If college expenses were not included in the settlement agreement or the divorce decree and the parents cannot agree on a solution, either the parent or the child may ask the court to determine how the child’s college expenses should be divided. If the parents do reach agreement, they can file that agreement with the court to make it enforceable should the other parent fail to make payments as agreed.