What is Constructive Emancipation and How Can This Lead to the Immediate Termination of My Child Support Obligation?

Child Support

In New York, a parent’s duty to provide financial support to his or her child is reciprocal with the child’s obligation to visit with the parent and obey parental directives. When a child fails to follow parental mandates and also refuses contact with his or her parent, that child may be emancipated; if so, the parent’s obligation to pay child support will terminate after that parents make the appropriate application to either the local Supreme Court or Family Court. This process is called “constructive emancipation,” or “emancipation by conduct.”

Generally, a child may be deemed emancipated if the child becomes financially independent of his or her parents through marriage, through entry into the military, or by a child’s physical abandonment of a parent. However, a child may also be deemed emancipated if, without cause, the child unjustifiably withdraws from parental control and supervision, or when the child unjustifiably refuses contact with the non-custodial parent. A non-custodial parent may seek a termination of support based upon their child’s refusal to communicate or for the child’s failure to effectuate normal visitation.

In other cases, a custodial parent may seek to terminate his or obligation to provide support for their child due to the child’s objectionable conduct or defiance of parental directives or mandates.

If your child refuses to comply with the arranged parenting schedule or if he / she refuses to listen to you and defies your parental edicts, you may file a petition with the court to terminate your support obligation. The burden is on you to prove your case and to do so is not easy. For example, if your child refuses to visit with you and / or communicate with you, the court will want proof that you, as the parent, have made “repeated and meaningful attempts” to mend the parent-child relationship and the child refused all attempts by the parent without cause and justification. It must also be evident to the court that you have not alienated your child in any way, shape, or form that would lead to him / her not wanting to see or speak to you. Of course, we always encourage parents to work to mend relationships with their children if at all possible. However, if a child refuses all attempts made by a parent, emancipation is a course of action to consider.

Parents who seek this remedy should also be made aware of the fact that the courts are not too eager to relieve a parent of their duty to support their children and will only do so under extreme circumstances and only when the strict guidelines set forth above are satisfied. Where termination is sought due to refusal to visit or interference with visitation, it is strongly recommended that attempts to contact and visit with the child are clearly documented, and that an attempt to terminate support be viewed as a process. It will likely take two or even more applications to the court before a termination is ordered. Where termination is sought due to failure of the child to abide by parental control, a well-documented course of conduct on the part of the parents and the child is necessary. An application on either basis, unaccompanied by convincing evidence, will likely not be successful.

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