Are you a teenager considering emancipation or a parent wishing to learn more about the intricacies of the emancipation process? Generally speaking, children under the age of eighteen are considered to be minors and anyone over the age of eighteen is considered an adult. In some circumstances some minor children wish to be emancipated from their parents, or legally declared an adult prior to turning eighteen.

Emancipation can occur for a number of different reasons and the court may grant such a petition for a variety of factors. Many young children consider themselves incredibly independent and therefore fit for emancipation. Whether they have their own job, perhaps pay rent, or even no longer live in the parents’ home anymore. However, independent factors such as these do not necessarily make a worthy case for emancipation or allow a teenager to qualify as an emancipated adult.

There are three main ways a minor can achieve emancipation:

  • Get a Declaration of Emancipation from a judge – see below
  • Get married – permission required from parents and the court
  • Join the armed forces – permission required from parents and military acceptance must be established

If a minor child is granted emancipation this completely relieves the parents of any financial, custodial, or other rights and support. Both children and parents should be fully aware of the ramifications of achieving emancipation in order to be completely confident in their decision. Many teenagers seek independence from their parents or wish to “go out on their own” but do not fully grasp all that is encompassed with legally being declared an adult and achieving adulthood at an early age.

There are a variety of reasons a teenager may wish to emancipate:

  • A physical, sexual or emotionally abusive relationship with their parents
  • Already legally married but wish to have the same rights as an adult (parental consent and court permission required)
  • A parent or guardian has decided they do not want their child to live with them any longer
  • The living situation at a teenager’s home is morally unbearable

Because there is so much weight behind the decision to emancipate, California courts require a legal process. If a minor child is emancipated they can apply for a work permit, get medical care, live independently and apply for college. If they achieve emancipation they are required to go to school, cannot get married with parent’s permission, and will go to juvenile court is they break the law. Again, each state is different when it comes to legal emancipation process requirements, so it is important all parties are familiar with the applicable laws.

Broadly speaking the emancipation process requires the petition by a minor to the court, sufficient evidence in support of the petition, and an appearance at a hearing that may require testimony to be given.

To receive emancipation the minor must prove all of the following factors to the court:

  • Minor must be the minimum age required (varies depending on state of residence)
  • The minor lives independently from their parents and has established its own form of income which allows them to support their residence and lifestyle
  • The minor has a steady and reliable source of income and is financially able to fully support himself or herself
  • The minor’s ability to demonstrate their maturity level and proficiencies

If a minor is granted emancipation and is legally considered an adult, this does not override age requirements for other legal rights. Achieving emancipation does not grant the right to vote, the ability to purchase alcohol or marry without parents’ consent before the legal achieve of majority in the applicable state of his or her residence. Emancipation status can also be revoked if the teen decides to return to their parents’ home or care.

The decision to become an adult prematurely is a big one, and taking on the rights and responsibilities is not easy. Teenagers should be sure they have considered and weighed all factors and consequences before moving forward with the legal emancipation process.

There can be many alternatives to the process should you decide emancipation may not be for you:

  • Speak with an adult you trust and value their opinion. Whether this person is a close grandparent, aunt or uncle, or a guidance counselor or church mentor. This person may be able to hear your reasoning and wishes, and may also be able to speak your parents if you feel that is appropriate. Having a uninvolved mediator is often helpful to speak with both sides and reach the best logical decision.
  • If you are involved in an abusive relationship there are many hotlines or child protective services that will offer support, advice and often times an alternative option for your living situation. This may be an option better suited for your current needs if you cannot financially support yourself but wish to be removed from your current home.
  • Many teenagers and parents just don’t get along. As unfortunate and emotionally frustrating as this may be, emancipation is probably an extreme solution to this problem. You may be better off staying with a close relative or friend and working through things that way.

If you or someone you care about is considering the legal emancipation process, you may have questions or confusions you would like to clarify. A family law attorney is often incredibly helpful in helping you make the best choice for yourself and your situation. If you’re not sure whether emancipation is the best choice for you or a minor to make right now, call Fischer & Van Thiel LLP at 760-722-7646 today and let us help you with your questions.

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