What Are a Parent's Duties When a Child Becomes Emancipated?
Learn more about:
- Definition of emancipation
- When is a child emancipated?
- Child support for incapacitated children
- Does child support automatically stop when a child turns 19?
- Paying the same amount of child support for remaining children
What is emancipation?
Emancipation occurs when a child is no longer under the control of a parent or guardian, and the parent is no longer responsible for the child. A Court will terminate the child support order in place upon finding that a child is emancipated.
The issue of emancipation usually arises in the context of modifying or terminating a child support obligation. A parent generally has the duty to support their child until that child is officially emancipated. Emancipation terminates a parent's obligation to support the child and frees the child from the care, custody, and control of their parents. A child is legally emancipated when they reach the age of 19. The Indiana legislature lowered the age of emancipation from 21 to 19 in 2012.
When is a child emancipated?
A child is emancipated by law when the child reaches 19 years of age. A Court may find that a child is emancipated before this age under certain circumstances, such as marriage or financial independency. In other cases, incapacitated children may never be considered fully emancipated, even past the age of 19. This means parents may be somewhat responsible for support for their adult children.
There are two circumstances where a child under the age of 19 can be determined to be legally emancipated. First, if the child is under 19, the Court may find a child to be emancipated if the child:
- is at least 18 years old;
- has not attended college or post-secondary school in the last 4 months and is not enrolled in college or a post-secondary educational institution; and
- is or is capable of supporting himself or herself through employment. However, if a Court finds that the child is 18 years of age and has not attended school in the last 4 months, but the child is only able to partially financially support themselves, the Court may order that child support be reduced, instead of terminated, in order to protect the child.
In the second circumstance, the Court shall find a child to be legally emancipated if the child:
- is on active duty in the United States armed services;
- has married; or
- is not under the care or control of either parent or an individual or agency approved by the Court.
There are some situations where a parent will be required to continue supporting a child after they have turned 19 years of age. If the child is incapacitated, the Court may find that a parent has the duty to support them as an adult child. "Incapacitation" means that the child is unable to financially support themselves entirely through employment due to a mental or physical condition. In these cases, a parent may be responsible to support the child during their incapacity or until the Court rules otherwise.
No. Even if a child reaches the age of 19, the Court does not automatically terminate child support. The parent paying child support is under an ongoing obligation to continue to pay the Court-ordered amount until the Court issues an order finding the child to be emancipated and terminating child support. The burden is on the parent paying child support to petition the Court to terminate child support and find the child emancipated.
If one child is emancipated, will I have to pay the same amount for the remaining children?
Until you receive further notice from a judge, you will be expected to pay the same amount of child support in full. In most cases, the Court will order a reduction of the support when one child is emancipated, but this will depend on the circumstances. It is important to note that a Court will not usually reduce the undivided amount pro-rata, because it may leave the remaining children with an insufficient amount.