A common issue that I routinely experience as a New Jersey child support attorney is the termination of one’s child support obligation when they believe that their child is emancipated. This issue can be quite simple or rather complex depending on the particular facts and circumstances surrounding a case. An even bigger issue arises when one parent, the obligor, is not involved in the child’s daily life and therefore may not know the specific facts surrounding the child which would ultimately lead to the declaration that said child is emancipated. It is possible that you may be entitled to reimbursement or at the very least a credit towards your arrears on overpaid New Jersey child support due to a child’s emancipation.
As a New Jersey child support lawyer I can certainly state that it is well settled law that New Jersey child support is terminated upon the emancipation of the child and the parents are relieved at that point from custody and the duty of support. In general terms, emancipation means the child has become free, self supporting, or made his own master so to speak. It is important to note that with emancipation and the termination of child support, a declaration of emancipation can take place years later, however, the timing of the declaration does not detract from the event of emancipation itself. There is no fixed time when a child becomes emancipated.
A New Jersey Family Court will make a determination as to emancipation in each particular case based upon the totality of the circumstances surrounding the child. The Court will look to see if the child has moved beyond the “sphere of influence” of the parents.
As to the question posed by this article, some may feel relieved that the answer to that question is in fact “yes”. In New Jersey emancipation can be implemented retroactively and credit given to the obligor. It depends on the actual facts of your matter, however, and is very fact specific. The premise behind same is that where there is no longer an obligation to pay child support, no child support can become due. This ensures that a child continues to receive support until a court properly decides that such support should be modified or terminated.
This does conflict with the general stance and statute that child support cannot be retroactively modified. There is an exception to this rule concerning emancipation. In that event, child support arrears which have accrued after the date of the emancipation of the child can be cancelled out and a credit provided to the obligor. A court also has the power to compensate an obligor and fix an amount due to them from all child support paid after the child was ultimately declared emancipated.
Furthermore, the doctrine of laches does not bar a party’s right to relief, as a defense asserting same cannot succeed unless a party fails to assert a known right. If a parent is not involved in the child’s daily activities or kept informed about his or her education, then that parent may not know exactly when the child should have been deemed emancipated. In this instance, the Court will need to determine whether the obligor was aware that the child was emancipated yet delayed in filing their motion
It can be difficult for parents who find themselves at times feeling like an uninformed outsider looking in, possessed with scant details or information about the facts surrounding their child. Where on the other hand the parent of primary residence whom the child resides with is fully aware of the facts, rested with the personal knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the parties’ child. In that particular case, if the court determines that the child is emancipated, the obligor is entitled to retroactive credit towards any outstanding arrears or reimbursement for any payments made during the time the child was in fact emancipated.
If you believe your child is emancipated you may be entitled to certain credits or even reimbursement of monies overpaid by you. As practicing New Jersey family law attorneys we can assess your case and get you the relief you are entitled to. If you have an issue surrounding child support and the emancipation of your child you should contact our firm today to discuss your rights.