Financial support for adult children is one of the most complex issues in the field of family law, especially when the child in question is not attending school, and no longer lives with either parent. On the one hand, reaching the age of 18 and choosing work instead of school is legal grounds for emancipation. The child's permanent residence away from the homes of either parent is also grounds for emancipation. So if a child meets either, or both of these conditions, a parent should be able to terminate child support, or any other forms of financial support, right?
Well, that depends on the reasons for why a child has made his or her choices. Unlike a juvenile, an adult child has certain rights and abilities, such as the choice to attend or quit school, and the ability to secure alternate living arrangements. However, many adult children are still financially dependent on their parents to some degree. Furthermore, an adult child may have been driven out of the home, or is living outside of the home for reasons that have nothing to do with the parent-child relationship. An example of a case in which living outside the home was deemed necessary was L.D. v. K.D. The child was a 19 year old special needs student, who was still finishing high school. The mother argued for the child to receive continued support from the father, which went towards her rent in an apartment she shared with a roommate. This living arrangement was made so that she could finish school in the same school district. The courts agreed that the child was not emancipated even though she lived outside the home, hence support should be continued.
Because the child in this case had special needs, it was on the mother to rebut the presumption of emancipation. Other adult children, however, need to rebut the presumption on their own with compelling evidence and/or circumstances. In the 2015 case of Llewelyn v. Shewchuk, the child opposed her own emancipation, even though she had voluntarily moved in with her biological father (the parent paying support had married the mother when the child was two years old). She was also working, rather than attending college, which the daughter was unable to refute to the court's satisfaction. Even the mother, who initially believed the daughter's move was temporary, finally admitted that her daughter's move seemed permanent, and agreed to the emancipation.
The daughter appealed the trial court's decision to declare her emancipated, but the Appellate Division upheld the decision. The court stated that none of the evidence – the transcripts, her treatments for anxiety and depression – was compelling enough to justify support for an adult whose college attendance was sporadic, and who chose to move out of her mother's home. With this decision, the Appellate Division reaffirmed the family court's decision to place the burden of proof on the adult child, rather than the parent in cases of continued support.
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