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Emancipation – Part Two

Yesterday, following the release of our blog regarding Emancipation in the State of New Jersey, the Appellate Division released a reported decision in a case in which a young adult asked to be emancipated from her parents at age eighteen over the objections of her father. This, of course, is the opposite scenario from the typical emancipation case in which a parent asks to emancipate the child, either because that child is beyond the sphere of the parent’s influence or because the parent does not believe that he or she should have to continue to pay child support and/or contribute towards the child’s higher education for other reasons.

In the decision released yesterday, the parties’ daughter, Sharon, testified that she wished to be emancipated because her father was trying to control her choice of college. Sharon acknowledged that if the Court emancipated her, her parents would not be legally compelled to pay for her college or post-college studies (she wishes to attend medical school after college). Although her mother supported Sharon’s emancipation request, her father argued strenuously against it, stating that Sharon is too young and inexperienced to be taking such a step. Put another way, Sharon’s father argued that she is not outside the sphere of her parents’ influence.

The Appellate Division noted that this was a case of first impression, meaning that no other decision has been published in the State of New Jersey in which a young adult has asked to be emancipated from her parents over an objection by one of the parents. Distinguishing it from the opposite cases, in which the parent seeks to emancipate the child, the Court upheld Sharon’s right to become emancipated. The decision was premised upon the trial court’s finding, after a trial, that Sharon “presented as a mature, articulate, intelligent, self-composed and confident adult, who is very focused and thoughtful in her desire for independence and her contemplated path in life.” In light of these findings about Sharon, the Court held that her father’s intentions, even if they were good intentions, were irrelevant. Thus, we now have three emancipation concepts: emancipation, un-emancipation and reverse emancipation.

At the end of the decision, the Appellate Court quoted the Declaration of Independence and wished Sharon well “as she begins her new journey in life.”

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