Most states in the U.S. consider age 18 as the age of majority, in which children become legal adults. However, in Colorado, child emancipation occurs at age 19. While this unique feature of Colorado law has little impact on many families, for divorced parents with child support orders issued by the Colorado family courts, it’s important to fully understand the state’s child emancipation laws. In Colorado, the child support obligation continues until the youngest child named in the support order turns 19 years old unless there are specific mitigating circumstances that end the obligation earlier or later.
It’s essential for both child support-paying parents and receiving parents to understand the emancipation of children in Colorado to prevent a violation of their child support agreement.
Understanding Child Emancipation
In the United States, it’s customary for 18-year-old children to begin a more serious stage of the process of becoming independent, self-supporting adults. Colorado family courts always place a child’s well-being as their top priority. To this end, the court takes the stand that children are not typically ready to become completely self-supporting at age 18. At this age, most young people are either in college or working in entry-level job positions that don’t provide adequate income or a full living wage. By making a child’s age of emancipation age 19 in Colorado, it provides a one-year additional buffer for a teen to become more self-sufficient.
Divorced parents must also understand that in families with multiple children, the child support obligation remains in place at the full amount until the youngest child turns 19 years old. It does not lower with each child that reaches emancipation unless a judge approves a modification request made by the child support-paying parent.
Are There Exceptions to the Child-Support Child Emancipation Age?
In certain circumstances, a parent can request an earlier end to their child support obligation before a child turns 19. A judge is likely to grant this modification request under the following circumstances:
- A child under the age of 19 joins the military
- A child under the age of 19 marries
- A child leaves home, works, and becomes fully self-supporting before age 19.
All of the above circumstances are forms of self-emancipation by an adult child. When a child joins the military, gets married, or moves out of the family home it indicates a mature level of self-sufficiency. Under these circumstances, a paying parent can request a modification of their existing support obligation and a judge is likely to grant the request.
Does a Child Support Obligation Automatically End at Age 19 in Colorado?
A parent should never simply cease paying their court-ordered child support before age 19, but should always seek a modification if a child joins the military, marries, or becomes self-sufficient. In most cases, child support automatically ends in Colorado when the youngest child in a family turns 19. However, in some circumstances, the court may extend the obligation beyond age 19. This typically occurs under the following circumstances:
- The child is over age 19 but still attends high school
- Both parents agree to continue the support obligation until a child completes college
- The continuation of payments until a child completes college was part of the original parental agreement signed during the divorce process
- A child has a disability that limits their earning capacity or impedes their ability to become independent and self-supporting
If you have questions about your child support obligation, when your obligation ends, or when it’s extended, a Denver family law attorney can help.