Child Support and Custody: When Is My Child Emancipated?

February 27, 2023 | By Stephanie H. Winegrad

In Pennsylvania, a child is emancipated for purposes of custody at the age of 18, and at that point, your “child” is no longer subject to a custody order. However, you still may have a duty to support your children beyond the age of 18. A parent owes a duty to support their child until graduation from high school or the age of 18, whichever is last to occur.

There is no obligation to pay for college in Pennsylvania.

In the spring prior to the year in which the child is scheduled to graduate, the payor and the payee will receive emancipation notices from the domestic relations office.

It is important for parents to complete the forms especially if the child is not expected to graduate or has special needs. If one or both parties return the form to confirm that the child will indeed graduate high school, the support will terminate if there is only one child subject to the order.

If there are two or more children subject to the order, the emancipated child will be removed from the order, but the amount of the support will remain the same. Therefore, it is the obligation of the payor to file to modify to reduce support. It is important to keep in mind that the amount of support may actually increase even if one child is removed from the order due to changes in the support guidelines or a change in income. Before you file to modify it is best to contact your family law attorney to run support calculations. Once you have that information, perhaps you and the other parent can reach an agreement as to a new support amount.

In certain instances, a child may not become emancipated, and, therefore, the support obligation may continue beyond turning 18 and graduating high school. 

The law is unclear as to whether a parent will continue to owe a duty to support but it often depends upon specific circumstances of each case. If a child has special needs such as physical or intellectual challenges where he or she is incapable of self-support there may be continued duty of support. 

If you have any concerns regarding your child’s emancipation date, reach out to one of our family law attorneys for more information. 

The information contained in this publication should not be construed as legal advice, is not a substitute for legal counsel, and should not be relied on as such. For legal advice or answers to specific questions, please contact one of our attorneys. 


About the Authors

Stephanie Winegrad - Conshohocken family law attorney

Stephanie H. Winegrad


Conshohocken Family Law Attorney Stephanie is a partner in the firm’s Family Law practice group, and has more than 25 years of experience in family law matters. As a highly skilled and...

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