In Pennsylvania, parents have a duty to support their children until the children are emancipated.

Whether a child is emancipated depends on the facts of each particular case. In the vast majority of cases, once a child turns 18 and has graduated from high school, the child is emancipated. This is different from other states that require a parent to continue to pay support while a child is in college. 

Unlike other states, Pennsylvania’s law does not require that parents contribute toward college tuition or other higher education expenses after a child is emancipated.

In order to terminate a child support order,  a Petition to Vacate needs to be filed several weeks prior to the child’s eighteenth birthday or high school graduation, whichever event occurs later. The termination will not happen automatically.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently addressed a situation where a child did not become emancipated after she turned eighteen and graduated from high school.  In that case, the daughter suffered from epilepsy and debilitating headaches. The daughter is 19, enrolled in college full-time, dances in a theater group, and works a part-time job twenty hours per week. The father attempted to terminate his child support obligation for the daughter; however, the Superior Court found that the daughter’s migraines and the medication that she must take for them reduce her ability to support herself. As a result, the Superior Court determined that the daughter was not emancipated and the father was required to continue his support payments to the mother.

The Kotzbauer v. Kotzbauer case does not address how long the father’s support obligation will continue. Several factors would have an impact on this issue, including the child’s marriage, moving away from home, a change in her employment, or her cohabiting.  These factor and others would likely impact how the court would decide the case in the future.