Court Procedure for the Emancipation of Minors

Since it's a legal process, it must go through the courts. A minor begins the process by filing a petition for emancipation. They will also appear before a court to request emancipation.

Minors can be "emancipated" from their parents or legal guardians under certain circumstances. Automatic emancipation occurs in situations such as when a minor gets married or joins the armed forces. If the minor is not eligible for automatic emancipation, they must petition the court for a declaration of emancipation. This is where they seek a court order through an emancipation petition.

Below is a summary of the court procedure for the emancipation of minors and the factors the court considers in deciding if emancipation is appropriate. Emancipation must be in the minor's best interests for the court to grant the petition.

A Brief Introduction to Emancipation

Emancipation is a legal process. Emancipation allows minors to gain independence from their parents or legal guardians before reaching the age of majority, which is 18 in most states. The effect of emancipation is that the minor can decide about essential aspects of their life. This can include decisions about medical care, education, and work permits. The process of emancipation involves filling out court forms, obtaining parental consent or a guardian ad litem, and attending a hearing date in superior, juvenile, or family court.

Emancipation Court Procedure: Petition Requirements

Minors petitioning their state courts for a declaration of emancipation from their parents' care and control are generally required to prove they are under 18 years of age (or the age of majority in that state). They must also prove that they're residents of the state where the petition is being filed. Minors may also need to provide documentation of their income and expenses and pay a filing fee or request a fee waiver from the clerk's office.

Petitioners must tell the court why they're seeking emancipation. Parents generally must be given notice of hearings. There may be more than one emancipation hearing.

Minors must also show the court they're mature enough to care for themselves. They must prove that they can financially support themselves. They must be able to provide their own shelter and make appropriate decisions. Some states require that minors already support themselves and live on their own.

Most state emancipation statutes exclude state financial support, general assistance, general relief programs, or welfare when determining the minors' ability to support themselves. Some states also specifically exclude criminal or illegal forms of support.

The Minor's Best Interests Standard

The court examines several factors to determine if emancipation is in the minor's best interests. The legal concept of a minor's best interests is similar to the test in child custody cases. Emancipation orders must be in the minor's best interests. If the minor's situation changes, the court can rescind the order. The minor must be returned to the parent's care and control in this situation.

Some states allow for partial emancipation. Illinois, for example, allows for decrees of partial emancipation. This means the court clearly states the limits of the particular emancipation. States with no statutory provision or procedures for minors to apply for emancipation may still determine or confirm that minors have been emancipated through the common law or case law.

Minors filing a petition with the court must provide certain information. Examples of such pieces of information are:

  • Whether the minor can support themselves financially with their own earnings
  • Whether the minor is living apart from their parents or has made adequate arrangements for future housing
  • Whether the minor can make decisions for themselves
  • Whether the child is attending school or has already received a diploma
  • Whether the minor exhibits enough maturity to function as an adult

The court then determines whether emancipation from parental care and control is in the best interests of the minor. If the court finds the emancipation of a minor is in their best interests, they will grant the emancipation order. At this point, dependency on the minor's parents will stop, along with child support.

Questions? Get Legal Help for Your Emancipation Case Today

There are many reasons a minor would want to petition the juvenile court, family court, or probate court for emancipation. Regardless of the reason, an experienced attorney can walk you through the court procedure.

An Attorney will help provide you with legal services and valuable legal advice applicable to your state's laws. Some states also offer a self-help center for minors seeking emancipation.

Get started today by contacting a family law attorney near you.

Was this helpful?

Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Minor children can go through the court process without parental consent
  • You may need legal help to understand local requirements and emancipation procedures
  • An attorney or a local legal aid office can provide more specific guidance 

Get tailored advice about seeking emancipation and ask a lawyer questions. Many attorneys offer free consultations.

Find a local attorney