Emancipation...It's Making You Wait

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October 18, 2018
Wendy Kaufman

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Cue Carly Simon’s song, “Anticipation.” Now substitute the word “emancipation” and visualize the old Heinz Ketchup commercial. Waiting for your child to emancipate thus ending your child support obligation can be like waiting for that ketchup to finally come out of the bottle. 

Every state has different rules on when a parent’s child support obligation ends. In Indiana, child support ends at the age of 19. Not 18, even though this is the age the children legally become adults, and thus can decide where and with whom they wish to spend their time. You are on the hook until your child turns 19 – no matter what. 

Many of the parents who have faithfully been paying child support think their obligation ends once the child turns 19. What they don’t understand is that you have to formally request the court to emancipate your child. If you have other children under the age of 19, your child support obligation will need to be recalculated. Having fewer children under the age of 19 children means you pay less support. And for those of you who have 17 or 18-year-olds already attending college, your child support obligation will decrease dramatically. 

Oftentimes child support is automatically withheld from your paycheck. Your employer will need a Court Order stating that your child is emancipated to stop withholding child support. Obtaining the Order can take several weeks, therefore you might end up paying support beyond the time you are legally obligated to do so. Be proactive and take note when your child support obligation is coming to an end. Terminating child support is an easy process and should not cause you to rack up expensive legal fees. 

Remember, just because your child support obligation is coming to a close, you probably have an agreement pertaining to payment of college expenses. If not, you need to get one. In the vast majority of Indiana cases, parents can petition the court to obligate parents to pay for college until a child turns 19. But that is a subject for another day.

The bottom line is this: your legal obligation might end at age 19, but your moral obligation probably extends far longer. I don’t know any 19-year-olds capable of financially supporting themselves. They still need your help. You can keep them on your health insurance until they turn age 26. And you can slip them a $20 for a pizza the next time they grace you with their presence.