Emancipation is a legal process that allows a minor, typically someone under 18 years of age, to become legally independent from their parents or legal guardians. States vary in emancipation laws. But most states require the minor to petition for emancipation. Minors must file a petition for emancipation in family or probate court. They'll need a court order, known as a declaration of emancipation, for the emancipation to become official.
This sub-section includes an overview of emancipation laws and the minor emancipation process. Learn about the emancipation of a minor by reading below.
Minor Emancipation Basics
Under the law, the minor's parents are responsible for feeding, clothing, educating, and acting in their child's best interests until they reach the "age of majority." In some states, a child can petition a court to request that they be deemed an adult with adulthood's rights, privileges, and duties. This process is called emancipation. When a child reaches the age of majority or is emancipated, the parents are no longer legally responsible for the child. The parents can no longer make decisions on the emancipated minor's behalf.
The process of emancipation varies depending on state laws. Generally, the process involves proving to the court that the minor can make independent decisions. They might also be asked to prove they can handle managing their own financial affairs. Self-sufficiency might be proven by showing proof of a job or stable source of income.
A minor cannot apply for emancipation in most states before age 16. California, for example, permits emancipation for minors as young as 14. Mississippi has no minimum age. Not all states allow a court to grant emancipation to a minor. In those states, only automatic emancipation is available.
Considering the Minor's Best Interests
The court process for emancipation usually takes place in juvenile court or family court. The courts ensure that emancipation is in the minor's best interests during the emancipation process. The court will look at the interests of the minor before making a decision. This may involve looking at factors like the minor child's maturity, ability to manage their own affairs, and the level of support they receive from their parents or legal guardians. If the court finds that emancipation is in the best interests of the minor, the court will grant the emancipation petition.
About half of the states do not have a particular emancipation procedure. Instead, they only offer automatic emancipation. Minors who marry, join the armed forces, or reach the age of majority are automatically emancipated. The age of majority is 18 in most states.
Marriage or entry into the armed forces before age 18 generally requires parental consent, though this may vary from state to state. Michigan provides for the temporary emancipation of minors in certain situations. Nebraska and Alabama's age of majority are 19. The age of majority in Mississippi is 21, but emancipation can be granted by court decree in these states at any age.
Effects of Emancipation
Once the court grants emancipated status, it issues a certified copy of the declaration of emancipation. This is proof of emancipated status whenever needed. Emancipation grants the minor certain rights and legal responsibilities.
For example, the emancipated minor can enter into binding contracts in their own name. They'll be able to make medical decisions for themselves and have control over their earnings. Child support obligations of the emancipated minor's parents end.
Minor emancipation does not convey other benefits of adulthood, such as the ability to buy alcohol or vote.
Getting Legal Help with Emancipation
Emancipation laws and procedures vary from state to state. Emancipation can also be a complicated process. Understanding your state's specific laws about emancipation is crucial. It helps to seek a legal professional familiar with emancipation. Family law attorneys can provide valuable legal advice, legal aid, and legal services. They can review state case law and common law to apply to your case. They can help you until you receive the legal status of an emancipated minor.
Talk to a family law attorney today.