In New York state, noncustodial parents are required to support their child financially until they turn 21 or become emancipated. In the latter circumstance, the child is treated legally as an adult instead of a minor, which means that:

  • They can make decisions and act on them without parental consent
  • They can sign contracts and open bank accounts
  • They can consent to medical procedures
  • Their parents are no longer legally required to take care of them financially

While emancipation automatically occurs in New York once your son or daughter turns 21, they can become legally independent at as young as 16 years old if their circumstances meet certain criteria, all of which are outlined below.

They get married against your wishes

If your child is under 21 and gets married despite your objections, then a court will likely declare them emancipated and relieve you of your obligation to support them. This is because they clearly attempted to avoid parental control.

On the other hand, if your child married someone else under 21 and you approved, then the support obligation continues, especially if you can still exercise parental control over them (e.g., they live under your roof and you pay for their food, clothing, etc.).

They join the military

According to the 1989  case Zuckerman v. Zuckerman, children under 21 are emancipated if they enlist in the U.S. military. However, if they are discharged before they turn 21, then they are no longer emancipated and must be supported by their parents.

They are 18 and working full-time

If your child is 18 years old and holding a full-time job (does not include summer or other seasonal employment), then they may be emancipated and no longer need your support, but if they stop working full-time before the age of 21, their emancipation typically ends.

Avoiding parental control

In the 1971 case of Roe vs. Doe, the New York Court of Appeals found that when a child aged 16 or over leaves home without a valid reason and refuses to accept reasonable parental control, they can be emancipated. The key factor here will be whether the child’s actions are willful and rebellious. For example, if your daughter leaves home because your former spouse is abusing her, then you may still have to support her.

Even if your child takes actions that satisfy the standard for emancipation, you must continue to pay support until a court declares otherwise, or you risk significant legal consequences. A New York family law attorney can review your case, help you determine whether your child’s actions effectively emancipate them, and advise you on how to petition the court to change the original support order.

If you are seeking divorce or child support, then contact the law office of Jayson Lutzky, P.C. Mr. Lutzky is a Bronx family court and divorce attorney with over 36 years of experience. Learn more about child support here or call 718-514-6619 to set up an appointment.