Legal Age a Child Can Refuse Contact by Divorced Parents

By Heather Frances J.D.

As children of divorced parents get older, they may be pulled toward one parent or another and may not want to see the other parent. However, if a child decides he no longer wants contact with his divorced parents, he must become emancipated before he can exercise a legal right to refuse contact.

Age of Majority

Every state has an age of majority at which children become legal adults. Typically, the age of majority is 18. After a child attains this age, he has all the legal rights of an adult, including the ability to decide with whom he wants to associate. Once he becomes an adult, he can refuse contact with either of his parents, or both.

Parental Support

Until a child attains majority, his parents are required to provide support for the child. In some states, support is required even while the child is in college. In a divorce situation, child support and custody are typically laid out in a court order, and both parents must comply with this order. This includes ensuring that the child spends time with the other parent as described in the order. If the child is emancipated, his parents are no longer financially responsible for him.

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Emancipation gives a child all the privileges of being an adult. Children are emancipated automatically at the age of majority, but procedures exist in each state to allow children to receive a court order that will emancipate a child before he reaches majority. Since emancipation makes the child a legal adult, an emancipated minor can refuse contact with his divorced parents. However, the child also takes on the responsibility to support himself financially. State law determines the age at which a child can seek emancipation. In some states, such as California, a child can seek emancipation as young as 14.

Emancipation Procedure

Depending on state law, a child or his representative may be permitted to file an emancipation request with the court where the child lives, and the court will hear evidence for and against emancipation before reaching a decision on the emancipation. One common reason for which a child can receive emancipation is when a parent abuses or neglects the child. Emancipation may also be available if the child’s parents agree to give up their parental rights. However, if a child is emancipated but then is unable to support himself, the court can set aside the emancipation order.

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