Changes in New Jersey Emancipation Law
One area of New Jersey Family law that remains extremely fact-sensitive is emancipation of a minor. Prior cases have proven that, in certain circumstances, a child may not be emancipated by the court even if both parents agree upon the emancipation. The idea is that the right to support belongs to the child, and thus cannot be waived by a parent.
A new published case this week also ruled that a child who reaches the age of majority, may waive the right to support, and seek emancipation even if the court feels he or she is not emancipated.
Another recent case confirmed the concept of unemancipation: the notion that a child who has previously been found emancipated may become “unemancipated” should circumstances change. It all continues the tradition in New Jersey of nebulous emancipation issues.
Unlike in many states, such as our neighbor Pennsylvania, emancipation does not occur at a set age. Moreover, both parents are generally responsible for contributing to their children’s college costs. Recent cases have also made changes as to how child support will be calculated when a child moves away for college.
In short, the changes in the law further “muddy the waters,” of an often confusing area of family law.
Some Events That May Lead to Emancipation
Some of the events that may lead to emancipation of a child include: that child’s marriage, the child’s graduation from college, full-time employment, joining the military (although merely joining the ROTC would not be sufficient), and graduation from high school if not pursuing college.
Again, these matters are always fact sensitive, and no broad-line rule exists with respect to emancipation.
The Future of Emancipation Law in New Jersey
The recent cases appear to reflect a trend of growing liberalism regarding when a child is emancipated. As children spend more years in school and the “teenage years” tend to expand well into some children’s twenties, the law appears to becoming more accepting of such delayed emancipation. Some of the factors that may determine emancipation include the educational and financial situations of the parents, their relationship with the children, and the health of the child in question.
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