With regard to child support, emancipation refers to the point when a child reaches the age of majority, which is 18 in California, and the parent is no longer required to provide support. However, parents should be aware of the impact on child support payments if a child is emancipated before reaching that age.
There are multiple reasons why a minor child would be freed from the care of his or her parent. Minor children are allowed to self-emancipate for marriage, total abandonment of the parental home, economic independence and military service.
It is not possible for minor children to be emancipated as long as they are still in the custody or care of their parents. Parents are obligated to continue to provide support to their children until the children reach the age of majority, and in some situations, the child support payments are required to continue even after the age of majority.
The reasons for child support payments to continue beyond emancipation may include support for an adult child who has special needs. If a minor child married and then obtained a divorce, the court may rule that the child is entitled to child support because he or she needs custody and care. The termination of child support payments after a child is emancipated does not occur automatically. In order for the payments to stop, the payor is required to submit a request to the court.
A family law attorney may work to protect a client's rights regarding child support matters. The attorney may advocate for a cost of living increase so that a custodial parent can afford everyday expenses. The attorney may request a reduction in payments if a non-custodial parent's financial circumstances have declined.