Ending Child Support Before Age 19 in Colorado

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By: Bill Henry
PublishedJul 25, 2022
4 minute read

Popular culture tells us that we magically blossom into fully capable adults on our 18th birthday. However, Colorado law does not see it that way. At 18, your kid is still considered a minor for child support purposes. Children become emancipated from their parents at age 19 in Colorado. Read this article to learn what Colorado law says about emancipation and child support, as well as the situations in which a minor can be emancipated before age 19.

Bottom Line

If your minor child is deemed emancipated by a court, you may no longer be required to pay child support on him or her.

Call a Family Law Attorney Today

Child support can be a tricky area of family law. You need the guidance of an experienced, compassionate family law attorney. The R&H Family Law Team will advise you of your rights regarding emancipation and child support. Call 303-688-0944 today to begin your case assessment.

Defining Emancipation

Emancipation is essentially the age at which an individual’s status in society changes from “child” to “adult.” Once a child reaches the age of emancipation, parents no longer have a legal obligation to financially provide for them.

Here’s what Colorado law has to say about emancipation and child support:

For child support orders entered on or after July 1, 1997, unless a court finds that a child is otherwise emancipated, emancipation occurs and child support terminates without either party filing a motion when the last or only child attains nineteen years of age.

Colo. Revised Statutes § 14-10-115

We’ll learn more about what “otherwise emancipated” can mean later in this article. But essentially, Colorado law recognizes that most children do not immediately become self-sufficient on their 18th birthday. Therefore, non-custodial parents are on the hook for child support until their last or only child turns 19. If you have two or more kids, and one of them turns 19, the amount of child support owed does not change unless you file a motion to modify child support. There is no automatic reduction in support for the emancipated child.

Emancipation and Child Support Before 19

Colorado law does include some exceptions that can either shorten or extend your child support payment period.

There are three situations where Colorado law allows the termination of support before the child turns 19. Those situations are:

  • marriage
  • military service
  • the child is ”otherwise emancipated” (see below)

Marriage and Emancipation

Colorado law dictates that:

if the child marries, the child shall be considered emancipated as of the date of the marriage. If the marriage is annulled, dissolved, or declared invalid, child support may be reinstated.

C.R.S. § 14-10-115

In 1970, a Denver County court ruled that a father’s child support payments automatically ended the day his daughter got married. The man’s ex-wife appealed, but a Colorado appeals court found in favor of the father:

The marriage of a minor daughter terminates the parental duty for support and has a direct effect upon the provisions of a divorce decree granting support. No enforceable rights to support payments can thereafter accrue to the parent receiving support.

Berglund v. Berglund, 28 Colo. App. 382, 383, 474 P.2d 800, 801 (1970)

Military Service and Emancipation

If the child enters into active military duty, he or she is then considered emancipated for child support purposes. C.R.S. § 14-10-115

“Otherwise Emancipated”

As stated in C.R.S. § 14-10-115, child support automatically ends on the child’s 19th birthday “unless otherwise emancipated.”

Colorado law does not provide a clear statutory definition of “emancipation.” However, the Colorado Supreme Court has held that:

When, by express or implied agreement between a child and a parent, a child who is capable of providing for his own care and support undertakes to leave his parents’ home, earn his own living and do as he wishes with his earnings, emancipation occurs. The burden of proving emancipation is on the one asserting it. 

In re Marriage of Robinson, 43 Colo. App. 171, 171, 601 P.2d 358, 359 (1979)

Factors that Determine Emancipation

When determining emancipation, courts consider:

  • the child’s financial independence
  • whether the child lives away from his or her parents
  • the creation of new relationships incompatible with the notion that the child occupies a subordinate position in his parent’s family.

In re Marriage of Weisbart, 39 Colo. App. 115, 117, 564 P.2d 961, 963 (1977)

Now, let’s look at how Colorado courts have handled certain cases involving emancipation and child support.

Background: Baker v. Baker

In 1981, Helen Baker filed a post-decree motion requesting — among other things — an increase in child support, reimbursement for her two children’s dental and doctor bills, and $1,500 for unpaid clothing allowance.

A Denver district court ordered Helen’s ex-husband, Bryant Baker, to pay $2,536.35 for past-due medical and dental expenses, as well as $1,200 in clothing payments. The court further found that the former couple’s older child was emancipated and raised the support for the remaining child to $500 a month.

The Father Appeals

Bryant contended on appeal that both children were emancipated, as the younger son was living away from home and working part-time. The court disagreed, declaring the child unemancipated because “he is attending school and remains dependent on his parents for financial support.” Baker v. Baker, 667 P.2d 767, 769 (Colo. App. 1983)

Now, what happens when your child is working full time? Keep reading to find out what Colorado courts have said about this scenario.

In re: Marriage of Robinson

In 1979, an Adams County district court ruled that a 19-year-old boy who had moved to Wyoming for the summer to work a full-time job before starting college was emancipated for that time. Consequently, the court ruled that the boy’s non-custodial father was not obligated to pay child support for him during that summer.

However, a Colorado Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision. The appeals court ruled that the boy’s employment was only temporary to earn extra money for college. Therefore, he would still rely on his parents for money during the school year.

The case made its way to the Colorado Supreme Court, which affirmed the appeals court’s decision:

Financial independence and the establishment of a residence away from the parental home are of significance in determining emancipation. Here, however, the evidence was that the summer employment did not free Eric from financial dependence on his parents during the school year and his departure from his mother’s home was temporary, and was intended to be so, while he was earning money to help pay his educational expenses.

In re Marriage of Robinson, 629 P.2d 1069, 1073 (Colo. 1981)

What do Colorado courts say if your child is working full-time and living on his own? Let’s find out.

In re: Marriage of Weisbart

In 1977, a Denver County district court denied Alan Weisbart’s motion to declare his 19-year-old son legally emancipated and to reduce child support payments accordingly. Instead, the court found Alan to be in contempt of court for unpaid child support and ordered him to pay his ex-wife’s attorney fees for the contempt proceedings.

Alan appealed the court’s decision. He maintained that his son had a full-time construction job and lived in an apartment in his own name. Alan’s son testified that he paid the rent and utilities on the apartment and that his mother did not give him money.

Nathan’s testimony led the appeals judge to reverse the trial court’s decision and declare him emancipated:

While no single factor is dispositive of the matter, and the record does not establish the precise dates on which the various events occurred, the uncontroverted evidence adduced at the hearing reveals a domestic situation existing in April 1976 which was radically inconsistent with continued subjection of the child to parental governance and discipline.

In re Marriage of Weisbart, 39 Colo. App. 115, 117, 564 P.2d 961, 963-64 (1977)

Speak with a Colorado Child Support Attorney Today

If your child has been declared emancipated, you may no longer be obligated to pay child support. The R&H Family Law Team is well versed in Colorado child support laws and can assist you with your case. Call 303-688-0944 today to begin your case assessment.

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