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My Child Won’t Speak with Me, Do I Need to Pay Support?

Family dynamics can be complicated at the best of times. Adding a divorce

into that mixture can sometimes result in a total and complete breakdown in

the relationship between the child of a marriage and a parent, usually the

noncustodial parent. The noncustodial parent is the parent who is not the

residential parent for purposes of child support and is the parent the child or

children do not live with for the majority of the time. In New York, unless

stipulated between the parties, a child is emancipated once they turn 21 years


There have been scenarios where after a divorce has been completed, that the

relationship between a parent and a child continues to worsen and cannot be

repaired. It is at this point, when the relationship has completely broken down

and the child refuses to speak with or see the noncustodial parent that the

parent will begin to ask whether or not they can emancipate their child before

the age of 21. If a child is found to be constructively emancipated, the

noncustodial parent’s child support obligation would be terminated.

This also applies to parents who were never married. If the noncustodial

parent in that scenario is paying child support, the noncustodial parent would

also have the right to seek a constructive emancipation of their child and

thereby terminate their child support obligation.

The legal doctrine of constructive emancipation exists as a mechanism for

emancipation when a child of employable age who refuses to have contact

with or visit with the noncustodial parent, essentially abandons the right to

receive child support from the noncustodial parent. The noncustodial parent

must not be the cause of the breakdown in the relationship with the child. The

noncustodial parent must also make serious efforts to contact the child and to

exercise their rights to visitation.

The Courts have made it very clear, that if a child is justified in refusing to

continue the relationship with the noncustodial parent, then they will not be

considered constructively emancipated. The burden of proof is on the parent

seeking to emancipate the child. This is a very high standard to meet and the

Courts will more often than not, deny the noncustodial parent’s claim because

there is a fundamental public policy in New York that a parent is responsible

for their child’s support until the child obtains the age of 21.

It is best to consult with an attorney to see if constructive emancipation is a

form of relief available to you.

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