Child support is a major part of many divorce and legal separation cases in Colorado. For the most part, a child support order will last until a child turns 19 – the age of majority in Colorado. Certain circumstances may change the age at which a child support obligation ends, however, either by cutting it short early or extending it past the age of 19. Emancipation is something that could shorten the required payment, depending on the case.
What Is Emancipation?
Emancipation in Colorado means that the rights and responsibilities that exist between a parent and child are terminated. To become emancipated in Colorado, a minor must fulfill certain requirements. For child support purposes, according to Colorado Revised Statutes Section 14-10-115(13), emancipation automatically occurs without either party filing a motion when the last child of the marriage turns 19 years old. This means most child support obligations end at age 19.
However, a child could also become emancipated early, which could terminate the child support agreement before the child turns 19. For example, if a minor gets married or joins the armed forces, he or she is legally considered emancipated in Colorado. It may also be possible for the minor to emancipate himself or herself through a court procedure, if the minor can prove that he or she lives alone, can self-support financially, and manage his or her own affairs. Once a child becomes emancipated, the paying parent generally will no longer have to pay child support.
What Happens to Your Child Support Agreement if a Minor Emancipates Early?
If your child meets any of the conditions that make him or her legally considered emancipated before turning 19 in Colorado, this will end your child support obligation early. An emancipated minor is no longer considered dependent on the custodial parent, as he or she can support himself or herself financially. Therefore, the paying parent will no longer be responsible for paying child support for the emancipated child.
You do not need to take any legal steps to stop paying child support for an emancipated child in Colorado. After marriage, military enlistment or an emancipation procedure, your child will legally be considered emancipated. This will automatically relieve you of your support obligation for that child without you needing to file a motion to terminate the support with the courts. As the payer, however, you may still owe child support for other minors who are not emancipated that you share with your ex-spouse. Your order will only end after the last child becomes emancipated.
Can a Child Support Obligation Last Beyond Emancipation?
In some scenarios, a child support order can extend past the child turning 19. Even though the child will technically be considered emancipated at this age, a parent may still have to continue paying child support if there are extenuating circumstances that require the custodial parent to continue paying for child-related care, such as a disability, medical condition or a child who still goes to school. If any of the following are true, a child support obligation in Colorado may last beyond the age of 19:
Both parties agree to continue paying child support longer.
The child is mentally or physically disabled.
The child is still in high school or an equivalent program.
If you are not sure how long your child support order will last based on a unique circumstance, such as early emancipation, you may need assistance from a child support lawyer in Fort Collins. The topic of emancipation can be complicated, especially if your child is attempting to become emancipated early with a court order. An attorney can help you understand your situation and how long your child support obligation will last. If you wish to modify a child support agreement based on a change in your circumstances, a lawyer can also help you with this legal matter.