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New Jersey Judge Emancipates 18-Year-Old Despite Father's Opposition

An Ocean County, New Jersey judge has held that an 18-year-old who plans to put herself through college is entitled to court-ordered emancipation despite her father's objection.

Sharon Ort's parents divorced several years ago but remained in post-judgment litigation over issues such as child support.

Sharon lives with her mother and turned 18 shortly before the court issued the emancipation order.

Sharon sought emancipation because she said her father was using his status as a joint legal custodian to exert his authority over her choice of college. She obtained granted to pay for her own college education, and plans to become a doctor.

Her father contended that she was too inexperienced and still within the "sphere of parental influence" -- the standard that governs whether a child should be considered un-emancipated for child support and college contribution purposes.

The Superior Court judge said that the father's resistance suggested that he felt Sharon was "simply too young at eighteen for entrustment with governing her own life."

Instead, the judge found that Sharon was "an intelligent adult with an unalienable right to pursue her own independent path to happiness in this world."

More commonly, emancipation cases arise when a parent petitions for the child's emancipation in order to be freed from the obligation to pay college expenses or child support.

New Jersey law generally sets the age of majority at 18. In an earlier case, the New Jersey Supreme Court had held that, although there is "no fixed age" for emancipation, 18 year olds must be deemed adults.

Sharon's attorney noted that it didn't make sense for his client to have fewer rights than a child in an intact family.

If you have questions about the emancipation of a child or other family law issues in New Jersey, contact a New Jersey family law attorney at the Law Offices of Greenberg, Walden & Grossman, LLC

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