Families are complicated and sometimes messy, and one of the most complicated and messy situations a family may ever face is the process of divorce. During divorce, there are myriad factors that can affect determinations of child support. The legal relationship between parent and child matters, whether in terms of custody or the legal decision-making abilities of the parent.

With regard to the decision-making abilities of the parent, some custody awards can be altered or even halted by releasing the child from the parent’s legal control. The courts commonly refer to this process as “emancipation.”

Why would this process matter?

Child support agreements hinge on the child’s need to be financially supported. However, if a parent is convinced that their child can financially support themselves or no longer needs the financial support before they turn 18, they can file a request to terminate child support early and have the child released from the parents’ legal control. The filing parent must prove that the child is financially independent or fully capable of financial independence.

What classifies as independent?

The New Jersey Department of Children and Families acknowledges four circumstances that could qualify a minor for release from their parents’ authority:

  • Getting married or entering into a civil union
  • Enlisting into military service
  • Becoming pregnant or fathering a child

The fourth circumstance – a court-ordered release – serves as an umbrella category covering a broad range of situations, such as:

  • The child moving out of the house
  • Insufficient financial resources held by the parents
  • The child obtaining a high school diploma or equivalent educational status

Consider this option carefully

While ending child support early may seem like an attractive option, parents should be wary of using this option without careful consideration of what it could mean. When a parent releases their authority over a minor child, they lose the ability to make important medical decisions or prohibit their child from taking out student loans.

The court becomes the released child’s governing authority when it comes to situations like entering into a marriage or military service.

If you believe that your child has reached financial independence and does not need child support anymore, discuss those concerns with a family law attorney. An experienced attorney can help you determine whether or not emancipation is the best decision for you and your child.