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Age of Majority and Child Custody Determinations

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             In a recent Second Department case, the court dismissed a father’s appeal, challenging the lower court’s award of sole custody of the parties’ three children to their mother. The appeal was dismissed by the Second Department because the parties’ oldest son had reached the age of majority. The court reasoned that a child who has reached the age of majority can no longer be the subject of a custody order.

According to the National Coalition of State Legislatures, the “age of majority” is the legal age established under state law at which an individual is no longer a minor and thus has the right and responsibility to make certain legal choices that adults make. Put simply, once a child turns eighteen years old, the court no longer has the authority to determine custody. This concept applies to both child custody and visitation/parenting time determinations. However, the age of majority for child support orders can vary based on the state.

Most states use eighteen as the age of majority for when the duty to pay child support ends. However, the age of majority can be extended in those cases where the child is still in high school when he/she turns eighteen. New York deviates from the norm in terms of age of majority and child custody. The Family Court Act extends the duty to pay child support until the child reaches twenty-one years old.

Additionally, some states allow child support to continue even after the age of majority when the support is used to pay for a child’s education, such as to attend colleges or universities. In New York, a parent could be required to provide college tuition support until the child turns twenty-one. However once the child reaches twenty-one, a parent may not be directed to contribute toward education expenses unless the parties sign an express agreement to do so.

If you have specific questions regarding your divorce proceeding or concerns regarding custody or child support payments and would like to speak to a respected and experienced Long Island Divorce Attorney, contact the offices of Jay D. Raxenberg. Call (516) 491-0565 or toll free at (888) 543-4867.

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