Child Support

Daughter Admitted Into Drug Rehabilitation Facility And Sober Living Home Is Emancipated For Child Support Purposes

In the child support/family law litigation case of Gahm v. Flay, 20-2-4764, App. Div., the defendant’s father appeals from the Family Part order emancipating his youngest daughter, retroactive to Jan. 28, 2013, and terminating plaintiff’s child support obligation effective that same date. In granting relief to plaintiff, the court found the daughter was no longer within the sphere of influence of her father, noting that she was nineteen years old, had graduated from high school, entered an inpatient rehabilitation facility in Florida in January 2013, was residing in a “Sober Living” home in Florida since leaving the rehab facility in March 2013, and working “almost full time.” These factors led the court to conclude the daughter had “achieved an independent status of her own.” As defendant urges, drug use is not dispositive of emancipation. Defendant’s daughter began using drugs and entered a rehabilitation facility before graduating from high school. She eventually returned to high school and graduated in June 2012. It is clear that she was unemancipated up until this point. Upon graduation from high school, she resumed drug use, but enrolled in a number of rehabilitation facilities. Unfortunately, she was unable to successfully abstain from drug use, and was admitted into another drug program in Florida in early 2013. Upon completion of the in-patient aspect of the program, she remained in Florida and is working nearly full-time. Thus, the facts before the Family Part judge reflect more than a brief hiatus from her parents’ sphere of influence. Substantial, credible evidence in the record supports the trial judge’s determination that the daughter has moved away from her parents’ sphere of influence. Consequently, the trial judge did not err in declaring that she was emancipated as of Jan. 28, 2013. As such, plaintiff’s duty to provide child support for the benefit of that daughter was extinguished.

Reference: Case & Analysis, New Jersey Law Journal, 217N.J.L.J.396 (August 4, 2014)

Filed Under: Family Law; Child Support; Emancipated

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