Many people assume that eighteen years old is the age at which children are emancipated. However, in Colorado, children are emancipated at the age of nineteen. Therefore, parents have to honor their child support obligation until each child reaches the age of nineteen.
Emancipation is the age at which an individual’s status in society changes from child to adult. The notion that parents should stop collecting child support when the child becomes an adult is rooted in the idea that adults should be required to achieve their own financial independence.
Like most rules, the emancipation deadline for child support has some exceptions that would either extend or shorten the required payment period.
Can a Child Become Emancipated Before the Age of 19?
Under certain circumstances, the child support obligation may end before a child turns 19. This can happen if the child gets married or joins the armed forces. It can also happen if the child is supporting himself or herself financially and no longer lives with either parent.
A child can become emancipated if he or she:
- Joins the military;
- Gets married;
- Lives on his/her own and is self-supporting;
- By conduct, though you must still prove that the child is self-supporting; or
- By Order of the Court.
While these are clear examples, there are some circumstances in which good faith arguments may be made on both sides of the issue of whether or not the child is “emancipated.” For example, if a “child” is away at college or employed, the “child” may be deemed not emancipated if his or her employment is intended to defray educational expenses.
When Does Child Support Extend Beyond Emancipation?
There are certain circumstances in which the court may extend child support past the age of 19. One situation is if the child is still working toward his or her high school diploma when he or she turns 19. In that case, the child support obligation may be extended until the child graduates or until the child reaches 21.
Another situation that could extend the child support obligation is when a child is mentally or physically handicapped. If the child is unable to support himself or herself because of a disability or handicap, child support may continue for the duration of the disability or handicap.
Finally, a child support obligation can also be extended if the parents mutually agree to extend child support as part of a parenting plan or separation agreement.
Do Child Support Obligations End After a Parent’s Death?
Surprisingly, the death of the parent with the child support obligation does not necessarily end the child support obligation for that parent.Courts can require parents to carry life insurance that would cover their child support responsibilities until their child reaches the age of emancipation.
The Harris Law Firm is one of Colorado's oldest and most respected family law firms. We understand how important it is to establish a child support agreement that is fair to both parties. If you have questions about setting up a parenting plan or the emancipation of your child, contact us today.