What happens to a child support obligation when a child becomes emancipated? It doesn’t necessarily terminate, or even drop. Minnesota law provides 3 possibilities:
- child support that is ordered in a specific amount per child terminates automatically when the child emancipates; no action is required by the obligor to reduce, modify or terminate support.
- child support that is not ordered in a specific amount per child, continues in the full amount until the emancipation of the last child for whose benefit the order was made.
- upon the emancipation of a child, if there are still minor children under the order, the obligor may request a modification of the child support order.
Unless the Order allows for automatic termination of support as provided at item 1 above, when modification of a child support obligation is sought based upon an emancipation of a child, the court must also determine whether the existing child support obligation is unreasonable and unfair. Minnesota courts have repeatedly said that a child support order may be modified upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances that makes the order unreasonable and unfair. Palmquist v. Devens, 907 N.W.2d 204, 206 (Minn. Ct. App. 2017).
When modifying child support, the unreasonableness and unfairness of the existing order is presumed when the parents’ current circumstances results in a calculated child support order that is at least 20 percent and at least $75 per month higher or lower than the current support order. Minn. Stat. §518A.39 subd. 2(b)(1).
Other changes that Minnesota law can recognize as a reason for modification of a child support order, include:
a ) Substantially increased or decreased gross income of either parent;
b ) Substantially increased or decreased need of either parent, or the minor child(ren):
c ) Receipt of public assistance by either parent or minor child(ren);
d ) Change in the cost of living for either parent;
e ) Extraordinary medical expenses for the child(ren);
f ) Change in the available health care coverage for the child(ren); or
g ) The addition of, or substantial change in, child care costs;
Child support obligations can be presumed unreasonable and unfair if:
h ) Health care coverage is no longer available to the child; or
i ) The child support obligor’s income has decreased by at least 20 percent through no fault of the obligor.
But if the only change in circumstances is the emancipation of one child, and there are other minor children who remain subject to the child support order, then the court must decide whether the current child support obligation is unreasonable and unfair, and if so, must set the new child support obligation in accordance with Minn. Stat. §518A.39 subd. 5 which provides:
“The new child support obligation shall be determined based on the income of the parties at the time the modification is sought.”
When children emancipate, parents who pay child support should be careful with the legal theory they rely upon to support a reduction of their ongoing child support.
It’s not always automatic that child support is reduced when a child emancipates. Please always consult with an experienced family law attorney with questions about reducing or terminating child support.
Contact Beyer & Simonson
If you are facing divorce and any of the divorce-related issues such as spousal maintenance, child support, child custody, property division, or domestic abuse matters, you need our experienced Minneapolis divorce attorneys to help you. Contact Beyer & Simonson in Edina, Minnesota today at (952) 303-6007.