Emancipated minors and child support obligations in Minnesota
Although your teenager may be convinced that he is no longer a child, especially when driving privileges, curfews, and house rules are at issue, you might not be so sure. But whether or not a court would consider your child to still be a child is an important issue in the world of child support obligations, since Minnesota law provides that, absent a court order to the contrary, child support obligations terminate automatically upon emancipation of a child.
What is emancipation?
The automatic termination mentioned above applies to child support obligations in a specific amount per child. These terminate automatically when the child is emancipated. This can happen in several ways. The most basic is that your child turns 18. If your child is attending secondary school, it’s when he turns 20 (even if he would say he was emancipated the minute he got his driver’s license!).
Emancipation can also be more of a grey area than this, though. A child can be found to be emancipated, supporting termination of child support payments, regardless of the age of the child or his student status. In general, minors can become emancipated by an instrument in writing, by verbal agreement, or by implication from their and their parents’ conduct. So, for example, a child could be found to be emancipated if he had graduated from high school, moved out of his parent or parents’ residence, and/or filed for emancipation.
Barriers to emancipation
There are some exceptions to the general rule that a child becomes emancipated at 18. If your child has a mental or physical condition that makes it impossible for him to support himself, he won’t be automatically emancipated on reaching age 18. A parent of a child incapable of self-support may request continued support after the child reaches the age when the support obligation for an able-bodied child terminates. That doesn’t mean that child support will automatically be extended beyond the age of majority; a court will decide based on the facts and circumstances of each case whether the child is emancipated for child support purposes. Before the duration of the child support can be extended, the court must find that there is a demonstrated inability of the child to be self-supporting.
Remember that the ages of 18 and 20 are just the default statutory ages for emancipation. You and your former partner can still agree (in writing) otherwise, or a court order can provide otherwise to reflect your agreement.
What about my other children?
If you or your former partner is paying support for multiple children and the support is not in a specific amount per child, the obligation continues in the full amount until the emancipation of the last child for whose benefit the order was made; you can’t stop payments for all children simply because the oldest became emancipated. However, if one child has become emancipated while there are still minor children under the order, the person making the support payments can request a modification of the support order. Any modification will be determined based on the income of you and your former partner at the time the modification is sought.
Any questions please call Rosengren Kohlmeyer Law Office, 507-625-5000 or send Jason Kohlmeyer an email at JKohlmeyer@rokolaw.com