Featured News 2012 What is Emancipation of a Minor?

What is Emancipation of a Minor?

Simply put, an emancipated minor is an individual under the age of 18 who is not under the care or authority of a parent or legal guardian. Under law, parents are responsible for their children until they reach the age of maturity. This age differs from state to state but it usually 18 or 19. A parent's responsibility for their child includes decisions regarding healthcare, education, where they will live, etc. However, if a child becomes emancipated, their parents no longer have any authority over their life and the decisions they make. While this may appeal to some minors, the flip side means that they will be responsible for providing their own shelter, food, and clothing and can no longer rely on their parents for help.

What causes a minor to want to become emancipated from their parents? These reasons are as different as the people who apply, but there are some reasons more common than others. For example, a child who is extremely wealthy (athlete, actor, singer) may wish to become emancipated for financial reasons, such as tax breaks or wanting to decide how they spend their money. Another reason could be to get out of an abusive home. This could be physical abuse or emotional abuse from a controlling and domineering parent. Others want to become emancipated because they are already taking care of themselves and so want to be able to make their own choices based on what is best for themselves.

There are three ways for someone below the age of maturity to obtain emancipation. The first is through marriage. Although they do require their parent's permission to marry, once they are legally married they are no longer under the care or authority of their guardian. Although every state has different laws surrounding minors entering into marriage, they typically require parent's consent and an appearance before court. Another possible way is through joining the military. However, in order to join the Armed Forces, applicants must have already obtained a high school diploma or the equivalent. Most individuals finish high school around the age to 17 or 18 so they are already emancipated by the time they enlist. Thirdly, a minor could become emancipated by court order. This, however, is not available in every state.

If a minor wants to apply for emancipation through a court proceeding, the first step in the stage is filing a petition. An attorney can assist with explaining why the minor deserves to be granted emancipation as well as giving details about how the minor will support themselves. Next the parents or guardians will be notified of the minor's intent. A hearing will follow where a judge will examine the case, ask questions, and hear the evidence why the minor should or should not be granted their request. Should everything go through, a Declaration of Emancipation will be granted.

Filing for emancipation is not always necessary and it could be beneficial to examine other options before going through this process. By talking to a family lawyer with experience in these types of cases, you could discover an alternative to emancipation. For example, some parents are willing to allow their child to move out of the home and live on their own even though they are not 18. In other cases, they will allow the minor to live with a different adult who will become responsible for them. Still others have found it helpful to attend counseling with their parents or ask for the help from a mediator to work through any problems. Whether your child is considering emancipation or you are a minor who wants to be responsible for yourself, seeking the help of a family attorney could prove to be an invaluable asset.

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