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Termination of Child Support Obligations

What You Need to Know About Child Abandonment and Emancipation

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Boy (12-13) doing homework at kitchen table, mother assisting
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Question: Should a parent continue to support a child that does not want to see him or her?

Answer: Absolutely. Court-ordered child support obligations continue even when there's a problem with the relationship between parent and child. Although a court is not in a position to force a child to have a relationship with a non-custodial parent, a court may assume that a child's unwillingness to have a relationship with a non-custodial parent is the result of the custodial parent's influence. For example: A custodial parent might speak ill of a non-custodial parent to a child, which might affect how a child feels about a non-custodial parent. In certain situations, courts have been known to grant custody to a non-custodial parent if it believes a custodial parent is negatively influencing a child. That said, there are instances when a parent might be relieved of child support obligations.

Emancipation of Children: Termination of Support Obligations

A child may request emancipation if she no longer desires to have a relationship with a parent. If a child is emancipated, a court might relieve a non-custodial parent of child support obligations. Whether or not a court grants emancipation, will consist of several factors such as:

  • Child's Age: An appropriate age will vary by state and by court. Some courts may determine that sixteen is an appropriate age, while another courts might determine that sixteen is too young to make such an important decision.
  • Child's Maturity: A court might consider a child's ability to clearly express his desire to be emancipated as well as the reasons for emancipation, as a sign of maturity. A court may also look to factors such as whether or not the child is employed or a good student.

A judge will expect to interview a child, prior to emancipation. If a court emancipates a child, a non-custodial parent's support obligation may terminate. However, for the most part, a court will be reluctant to terminate support obligations for fear the state will need to provide financial support for the child.

Courts frown upon any interference in a parent-child relationship. In determining whether to terminate child support obligations, a court will consider the best interest of the child and then a court will determine whether or not both parents are able to work together to support the needs and emotional well-being of the child, before ordering new custody arrangements.

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