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The Divorce Encyclopedia

Term Definition Emancipation - the point at which a minor comes of age.
Application in Divorce The age is typically 18 or 21.

This term has different definitions in different jurisdictions.

In the 1970s and 1980s, some states rewrote their emancipation statutes to provide that a parent is released from a support obligation when a child is 18 or 19 or when he or she graduates from high school.

In some cases, a minor -- that is, a person below the age of majority-- achieved emancipation by enlistment in the armed services, pregnancy or giving birth, marriage. What is termed "self emancipation" happens when "’a child who is physically and mentally able to take care of himself voluntarily abandons the parental roof and leaves its protection and influences and goes out to fight the battle of life on his own account,’" as one writer put it.

The mere act of dropping out of high school does not constitute emancipation. In some jurisdictions, however, a young person who becomes employed may be considered emancipated even if he or she lives at home.

In divorce, emancipation does not necessarily mean majority, which is 18. Some jurisdictions consider emancipation to be 18 to 23 to allow for support through college.

Care should be taken in marital separation agreements to define emancipation in a way that considers college for children still at home at the time of the divorce.

See College Education.

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