Emancipation is a court procedure in which a minor (someone under 18) is released from parental control. Once a minor is emancipated, she is free to make all her decisions without the consent of her parents. On the other hand, her parents are no longer responsible for providing her with financial support, food or shelter.
Why Would I Want to be Emancipated?
Legal emancipation may be a good alternative to such bleaker options as running away from home or turning to drugs or violence to escape a bad family living situation. Provided that you are financially independent and emotionally mature, emancipation may allow you to get on with your life. An emancipated minor has the ability to make medical decisions (including decisions regarding abortion) and sign contracts (including leases), among other rights and responsibilities.
Who Can Be Emancipated?
The minimum age of a minor who can petition for emancipation differs from state to state. For example, in California, anyone at least 14 years of age may be emancipated. In Illinois and Florida, a minor must be at least 16. Additionally, some states like Wisconsin and Nebraska do not have any law regarding emancipation.
How Can I Be Emancipated?
A minor who wishes to be emancipated must bring a petition for emancipation to state court. The judge will consider a variety of factors in deciding whether to grant emancipation. These factors include:
- Parental consent or acquiescence
- Marital status
- Stability of independent income
- Desire to live independently
States may vary in what factors are required or considered. You should check to see what is required in your state.
Do I Need a Parent's Permission to be Emancipated?
A minor seeking emancipation must usually have her parents' permission. Generally, a minor cannot seek to "divorce" their parents or seek emancipation without their parents' permission. However, if your parents refuse to consent to emancipation proceedings, you can still succeed in some states, so long as you can show that denying emancipation would significantly harm you.
Do I Have to Go to Court to be Emancipated?
A minor seeking emancipation must obtain an official decree, and so must go to court. If a judge decides to grant emancipation, she will issue a court decree. The newly emancipated minor can then obtain a copy of the decree to prove her status to schools, doctors, employers and landlords (or anyone who might request parental permission).
Is Emancipation Permanent?
Emancipation is not permanent. An emancipated minor can retain this status only so long as she is financially independent from her parents and lives apart from them. If she returns home before turning 18 or accepts financial support from them, she is no longer emancipated and her status returns to that of a dependent minor.
I am Under 18. I Cannot or Do Not Want to Live with My Parents any Longer. Do I Have Other Options Besides Emancipation?
There are several options open to minors who wish to live apart from their parents. Many times, parents will formally or informally allow their teens to live with friends or relatives who agree to take care of them. This is perfectly legal. Additionally, if the minor's home life is insufferable, they can also consider contacting the Department of Social Services, who may be able to find alternative living arrangements for the minor. But be aware that this option may result in extensive investigations of the teen, their family, and may result in foster care or group home placement.
Do I Need an Attorney to Be Emancipated?
Because of the complexity of the emancipation process, it may be wise to consult with a family law lawyer. Speaking with a law attorney near you will help you understand your rights and obligations as well as preserve any possible remedies you may have.