What is emancipation?  Emancipation means that a child has reached independence from his parents.   In Indiana, the law sets out factors to consider in determining whether a child should be declared emancipated for child support purposes.   If the child is 18 years old, out of high school for at least 4 months, and not enrolled in college or some other educational institution, and is capable of supporting himself, then in most cases an Indiana court would declare that child emancipated and terminate the duty to pay support.  If a court finds that all factors are met but the child is not fully capable of supporting himself or herself, but only partially capable, then a court may modify the child support order to a lesser amount instead of terminating the support completely.

A court may also declare a child emancipated in the following situations:

  • The child has married, regardless of age.
  • The child is on active duty in the United States armed services
  • The child is no longer under the care and control of either parent or an agency or person designated by the court.

Of course, a court would examine the circumstances on a case-by-case basis and make a determination based on the totality of the circumstances and in the best interests of the child.  Below are the two most relevant statutes pertaining to emancipation in Indiana.

IC 31-14-11-18
Termination of child support; petitioning for educational needs
 Sec. 18. (a) The duty to support a child under this article (or IC 31-6-6.1 before its repeal), which does not include support for educational needs, ceases when the child becomes nineteen (19) years of age unless either of the following conditions occurs:
(1) The child is emancipated before the child becomes nineteen (19) years of age. If this occurs, the child support, except for educational needs, terminates at the time of emancipation. However, an order for educational needs may continue in effect until further order of the court.
(2) The child is incapacitated. If this occurs, the child support continues during the incapacity or until further order of the court.
(b) A child who is receiving child support under an order issued before July 1, 2012, may file a petition for educational needs until the child becomes twenty-one (21) years of age.
(c) A child who is receiving child support under an order issued after June 30, 2012, may file a petition for educational needs until the child becomes nineteen (19) years of age.
As added by P.L.1-1997, SEC.6. Amended by P.L.111-2012, SEC.1.

IC 31-16-6-6
Termination of child support; emancipation
 Sec. 6. (a) The duty to support a child under this chapter, which does not include support for educational needs, ceases when the child becomes nineteen (19) years of age unless any of the following conditions occurs:
(1) The child is emancipated before becoming nineteen (19) years of age. In this case the child support, except for the educational needs outlined in section 2(a)(1) of this chapter, terminates at the time of emancipation, although an order for educational needs may continue in effect until further order of the court.
(2) The child is incapacitated. In this case the child support continues during the incapacity or until further order of the court.
(3) The child:
(A) is at least eighteen (18) years of age;
(B) has not attended a secondary school or postsecondary educational institution for the prior four (4) months and is not enrolled in a secondary school or postsecondary educational institution; and
(C) is or is capable of supporting himself or herself through employment.
In this case the child support terminates upon the court’s finding that the conditions prescribed in this subdivision exist. However, if the court finds that the conditions set forth in clauses (A) through (C) are met but that the child is only partially supporting or is capable of only partially supporting himself or herself, the court may order that support be modified instead of terminated.
(b) For purposes of determining if a child is emancipated under subsection (a)(1), if the court finds that the child:
(1) is on active duty in the United States armed services;
(2) has married; or
(3) is not under the care or control of:
(A) either parent; or
(B) an individual or agency approved by the court;
the court shall find the child emancipated and terminate the child support.
As added by P.L.1-1997, SEC.8. Amended by P.L.2-2007, SEC.362; P.L.80-2010, SEC.30; P.L.111-2012, SEC.2.