In many cases, a child in California or elsewhere is considered emancipated at age 18 or 21. However, there are instances in which a child may be declared emancipated at a younger age. Typically, a child is declared emancipated before reaching the age of majority because he or she got married, was in the military or because he or she left his or her parental home.
If a parent is under a court order to pay child support, that order may still be in effect after a child is emancipated. This may be true in the event that a child has special needs. It may also be true if a child who was married gets divorced and still needs care from a parent. It is important to note that child support orders do not automatically terminate. When a child reaches the age of majority or is emancipated, a parent must ask for the order to be terminated.
When a judge makes a ruling relating to child support, he or she will generally do so only after considering the best interests of the child. If terminating support could harm the child, it is unlikely that this will be done. Therefore, even if a child has been emancipated, a parent may still be obligated to continue making payments. Parents who currently pay child support may wish to talk to an attorney about their options.
An attorney may be able to make the case that a child no longer needs support because of age or economic independence. It may also be possible to ask that a child support order be modified because of a parent’s financial hardship. If a parent has lost a job or accrued large medical expenses, support amounts may be reduced temporarily or permanently.