Emancipation: When a Child No Longer Needs Your Support

Barring a substantial physical or mental handicap, an adult should be able to earn a living and support him or herself without financial aid from parents. But when does a child truly become an adult? Is it at age 18, when he or she can enlist in the military, vote, and engage in other adult activities? Or is it a few years later, at the point where he or she has the skills and the knowledge that enables him or her to earn an independent living? These questions come into play when a child who receives financial support from a non-custodial parent reaches young adulthood.

18 and Out?

In Illinois, a child becomes a legal adult on his or her 18th birthday. This means that he or she is officially emancipated from his or her parents. However, that does not mean that his or her parents’ financial responsibility is necessarily over. Many 18-year-old teens are still in high school when they become legal adults. If a child turns 18 while still in high school, the parents must continue to provide support until he or she graduates or turns 19. In certain cases, financial support may be required to continue even longer if the young man or woman chooses to attend college and cannot cover the related expenses without help.

Emancipation before Age 18

There are other situations where a child younger than 18 years old may become emancipated. These situations are as follows:

  • If the young man or woman enlists in the United States Armed Forces;
  • If the young man or woman establishes his or her own residence apart from his or her parents;
  • If the young man or woman gets married; or
  • If the young man or woman gets a job that pays enough money for him or her to support him or herself.

All of these are scenarios where a young adult no longer needs financial support from his or her parents. There are other scenarios that might seem like grounds for emancipation, but in fact are not. These scenarios include:

  • If the young man or woman becomes a parent;
  • If the young man or woman applies for and receives government assistance; or
  • If the young man or woman drops out of high school.

In these cases, the young adult has not proven that he or she does not need his or her financial support from parents. If the child is younger than 18 years old or is still in high school and experiences one of these scenarios, he or she remains his or her parents’ responsibility.

An Illinois Child Support Lawyer Can Help

As a parent, you want to help your child succeed. When it comes to deciding when to end your child custody payments, it is best to consult with an experienced Wheaton child custody attorney at Sullivan Taylor, Gumina & Palmer, P.C. in Wheaton, Illinois.