23 Year old child pursuing Master’s Degree – “not emancipated”

The New Jersey Appellate Division has recently upheld a trial court determination that a 23-year-old child was not emancipated and was entitled to contribution toward her education costs as well as continued child support. In Mulcahey v. Melici the Appellate Division found that the determination of emancipation is a fact-sensitive inquiry that involves a critical evaluation of the prevailing circumstances including the child’s need, interests, and independent resources, the family’s reasonable expectations, and the parties’ financial ability, among other things. The Court followed prior precedent holding that emancipation is a question of need not age. This decision is contrary to common belief that emancipation automatically occurs upon college graduation. Courts, however, have begun to recognize that completion of undergraduate education is not the determinative factor for either declaring emancipation or terminating child support. See, e.g., Ross v. Ross, 167 N.J. Super. 441, 400 A.2d 1233 (Ch. Div. 1979) (declaring daughter could not be considered emancipated as she was attending law school after obtaining her undergraduate degree). See also Caplan v. Caplan, 182 N.J. 250, 261, 864 A.2d 1108 (2005) (affirming the trial court’s judgment ordering parent to pay for graduate school in addition to college). Similarly, a one-year hiatus from college does not mandate emancipation. See Sakovits v. Sakovits, 178 N.J. Super. 623, 630, 631, 429 A.2d 1091 (Ch. Div. 1981) (stating it would be inequitable for parental contributions to end simply because a child takes a hiatus). See also Keegan v. Keegan, 326 N.J. Super. 289, 294-96, 741 A.2d 134 (App. Div. 1999) (determining child was not emancipated even though she took a hiatus from college to pursue brief employment). DiFrancesco, Bateman, Coley, Yospin, Kunzman, Davis & Lehrer, PC is a full service law firm in New Jersey which provides a broad range of legal services, including the representation of parties in matrimonial and family law matters. For additional information about the matters in this bulletin or in the firm’s family law practice please contact James Moloughney, Esq.

CATEGORIES: Family Law, Marital Law

DiFrancesco, Bateman, Kunzman, Davis, Lehrer & Flaum PC (http://www.dbnjlawblog.com) is a full service law firm in New Jersey which provides a broad range of legal services. For additional information about the matters in this bulletin or in the firm’s Employment Practice, please contact Richard P. Flaum, Esq.

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