Emancipation: When Is It Time To Grow Up?

There comes a time in every adolescent’s life when he or she becomes an adult and takes on new responsibilities. It is an exciting, turbulent, and sometimes uneasy stage. And for most young adults, it results in the freedom of independence and self-determination. For parents, however, it can be bittersweet.

When your child grows older, and no longer needs your constant supervision, he or she will continue to utilize the lessons and values instilled since in him or her birth. In addition, questions will result regarding how much financial support your adult son or daughter now needs.

Usually, a non-custodial parent’s child support obligation ends when a child becomes emancipated.

Emancipation is an Entrance to the Adult World

When your child no longer needs your financial support, he or she is considered to be emancipated. For most adolescents in Illinois, this is at the age of 18. However, some 18-year-olds are still in high school when they reach this birthday. In cases like this, child support must continue until he or she graduates or drops out from high school.

For some individuals, emancipation comes before the age of 18. Under the Emancipation of Minors Act, the following are legally-recognized emancipation events in Illinois that release a minor’s parents from their financial responsibility to their minor child:

  • When a young adult establishes his or her own residence apart from his or her parents;
  • When a young adult gets married;
  • When a young adult obtains full-time employment that allows him or her to financially support him or herself; and
  • When a young adult enlists in the United States armed forces.

Continuing Child Support beyond Age 18

Many young adults choose to attend college immediately following high school. This can be a significant financial burden for the young adult and his or her parents. Although in some states a court may automatically require a parent to cover some or all of his or her child’s college expenses, Illinois courts decide this issue on a case-by-case basis. If a child shows significant need for financial support from his or her parents to attend college, along with an academic record to prove that college is in his or her best interest, a court may require a non-custodial parent to help cover some of these expenses.

Issues related to support for adult children are addressed in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. Along with guidelines for providing support for college students, it also addresses continuing support for adult children with special needs. These needs can be physical or mental disabilities that prevent a young adult from becoming financially independent. When this is the case, a custodial parent may file to have his or her former spouse’s support continue beyond a child’s 18th birthday. Some families opt to create a trust fund to support their special needs children after they no longer can.

Contact a Family Attorney Today

Our team of DuPage County family law attorneys can answer any questions you have about child support or emancipation for your adult son or daughter. Contact our office today to discuss your case with one of our firm’s experienced lawyers.