Articles Posted in Child support

divorce court

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People who serve in the United States Armed Forces are entitled to a variety of benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), including pensions and other retirement income, health care, life insurance, and dependent and survivor benefits. In a divorce in the state of New York, certain VA benefits are treated as assets subject to equitable distribution. VA benefits may also constitute income to be considered in calculating child and spousal support. The divorce process can present concerns for both veterans and spouses of veterans, both of whom may worry about losing assets or income streams on which they depend.

The New York Times recently published a story by the former spouse of a National Guard member who deployed to Iraq and returned home with physical and psychological injuries. She describes helping him obtain assistance through the VA, and the ongoing treatments and tests that eventually resulted in diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Unfortunately, the two were not able to make the marriage work, and they divorced. The author states that she is lucky, since she has a job that provides benefits. Many military spouses who end up divorcing find themselves cut off from support from the VA.

Several types of VA benefits are particularly important in a divorce proceeding:

– Pensions:  Some veterans are eligible for tax-free retirement benefits.
– Life insurance:  The VA provides numerous life insurance options for veterans and their dependents.
– Health care:  The VA operates a large network of healthcare facilities, including hospitals and clinics.

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lone child

Photo Credit: Suzanne Tucker /

Children are entitled to support from their parent(s) or guardian(s) (or “parents” as a shorthand) until they reach the age of majority, or until one or more specific events occur. They are also obligated to abide by their parents’ decisions regarding their health, education, and welfare. Emancipation is the process by which a minor may legally separate themselves from their parents, meaning that they are no longer subject to their control and also no longer entitled to their support. New York, unlike many states, has no formal emancipation procedures, but state law identifies situations in which a minor may be deemed emancipated. The issue may arise in New York when a parent seeks to terminate a child support obligation for an emancipated child. The parent has the burden of establishing that the child meets the legal standard for emancipation.

In about half of the states in the U.S., a minor may petition a court for an emancipation order. In states without a defined procedure for emancipation, courts may make a determination based on the totality of the child’s circumstances. Emancipation does not allow a child to engage in acts with a specific, legally-defined age limit, such as voting or enlisting in the military (age 18), or buying or consuming alcohol (age 21).

Many states only require parents to provide financial and other support to their children until they reach the age of majority. In New York, the obligation continues until the child turns 21, unless the child marries, joins the military, or is emancipated before then. If a child receives public assistance, the parents may be obligated to reimburse the state. A New York court may consider emancipation in terms of the child’s ability to live independently, which releases the child from the parents’ authority, or in terms of the child’s abandonment of the parents, which releases the parents from further support obligations.

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