Termination of Child Support

Examining the Custody Laws in Westchester County, NY

In New York, child support “terminates” when a child reaches the age of 21. Beyond the age of 21 parents do not have a legal obligation to support their child unless the parents have entered into a valid contract to provide child support beyond the age of 21.

However, there are instances when a parent’s child support obligation may be terminated before their child turns 21. In New York legal language this occurs when a child becomes “emancipated” prior to reaching the age of 21. Examples of “emancipation” include instances where:

  • The child obtains full-time employment which pays enough that the child can truly be considered to be financially independent of their parents; and/or

  • the child gets married; and/or

  • the child enters into the armed forces; and/or

  • under certain limited circumstances, the child refuses, without just cause, to submit to reasonable parental authority.

  • The parents are divorced and their divorce agreement has specific provisions which the parties’ agree are considered “emancipation events”.

Emancipation of a Child

While a child may become emancipated prior to the age of 21 it is also possible that after a New York family or supreme court rules that the child is emancipated, that the child may later become “unemancipated” prior to reaching the age of 21 which would require that the payment of child support must resume. For example, at age 18 the child had full time employment and was financially independent of his/her parents but then at age 19 the child stops working and attends college.

It is also vital to understand that emancipation does not occur automatically. You cannot emancipate a child, even when both parties agree to early emancipation or your case fits one or more of the examples outlined above. That's something that must be done by the Court and that is why you need the assistance of a Westchester County divorce lawyer.

Emancipation in Divorce Agreements

In circumstances where a person’s obligation to pay child support derives from their divorce agreement with their ex-spouse (also known as a “settlement agreement” or “stipulation of settlement”) it is typical that the parties will define emancipation events in the divorce agreement itself. The above conditions represent typical definitions commonly found in a divorce agreement. However, even if the divorce agreement defines “emancipation” the parties’ will still need the Court to approve.

It is also common for people to agree in their divorce agreement that when a child is enrolled in a full time college and is pursuing an undergraduate degree, the age of emancipation is 22 years or the completion of four years of college, whichever comes first. Absent such an agreement, in all other instances, the age of emancipation is 21 unless certain other factors exist which may trigger an earlier emancipation upon application to a Court.

Schedule Your Free Initial Consultation

If you are seeking to obtain a court order terminating your child support obligations because you believe, for any reason, that your child support obligations should be terminated, call the White Plains family court lawyers at Riebling, Proto & Sachs, LLP for a FREE INITIAL CONSULATION to discuss your legal rights. Contact us online or by telephone at (914) 840-5104 to speak with an experienced family law attorney.

Accomplishments & Media