Child Support – Emancipation Notices
If your son or daughter recently turned 18 or graduated from high school, you likely received a notice from your local Office of Domestic Relations. As graduation and/or 18th birthdays approach, the Office of Domestic Relations will send a notice to both parties. These notices are called and are often titled “Emancipation Notice.” The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has long established that child support, barring exceptional circumstances, terminates when a child turns 18 or graduates from high school whichever of the two occurs second. The purpose of the “Emancipation Notice” is for the Office of Domestic Relations to identify which event will govern when support will terminate. However, with these notices there may also be some issues that cause complications for both the parties and their attorneys.
First, these notices go to the parties only, not the attorneys. In a best case scenario, both parties agree on the date support will terminate. If the parties have only one child, the support order ends. All is well. No need for attorneys.
If the parties have more than one child, then the child graduating or turning 18 is removed from the order, but the amount of child support remains the same. In other words, removing a child that has aged off the order will not automatically result in a recalculation of the amount of support. In these cases it is wise for each party to contact their attorney to both alert them to the development and review whether a change in the monthly amount is warranted. If a change is proper a petition to modify support must be filled.
If the child that is turning 18 has special needs, you must bring this information to your attorney’s attention. A conference will be scheduled automatically without the need for a further petition if the parties return their emancipation notice with information that the child has special needs.
The bottom line is that when you receive an Emancipation Notice, do not assume the Office of Domestic Relations understands the circumstances in your individual matter. Make sure you understand how filling out this form will affect your matter specifically, and if you have any doubts or questions contact your attorney.
Author: Kimberly Litzke