At age 18, the child becomes an adult, legally beyond the reach of parental decisions. However, not until age 21 does the legal obligation to support that child come to an end (unless extended by agreement).
A parent’s obligation to support may end (or be suspended) before that, as when a child marries, enters the armed forces, or becomes economically independent. However, as a practical matter as long as the child remains under a parent’s roof, economic independence may not be found.
Take the June 28, 2011 of the Appellate Division, Second Department, in Smith v. Smith. There, the Court affirmed Suffolk County Family Court Richard Hoffman ‘s denial of a father’s objections to the order of Support Magistrate (and Pace Law School Professor) Cheryl Joseph-Cherry which awarded $200.00 per month child support to the wife/mother.
The parties’ son worked full-time. He paid for his own car insurance and cell phone. However, the appeallate court found it persuasive that the mother still paid for his food, shelter, clothing, and health and dental insurance.
The decision does not provide greater detail. We don’t know what the child “does” or how much the child earns. Presumably, if the child is in school, we would have been told.
However, the Court did place primary reliance upon the First Department’s 2009 decision in Matter of Thomas B. v Lydia D. That decision, itself placed heavy reliance upon the Second Department’s decision in Matter of Fortunato v. Fortunato, 242 A.D.2d 720, 662 N.Y.S.2d 570 (1997). In Fortunato, the child was found to be emancipated because he was:
working an average of 30 to 35 hours per week … [,] he used his earnings to meet all of his personal expenses, including car insurance payments and telephone charges, and … he voluntarily contributed modest sums to his mother for room and board. Moreover, the son was not attending school, and had no plans to save money for tuition or return to college in the immediate future.
Continue Reading Child's Economic Independence, Not Full-Time Employment, Signals End of Support Obligation