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Court Procedure for the Emancipation of Minors

Minors can become "emancipated" from their parents or legal guardians under certain limited circumstances, such as when a minor gets married or assumes adult responsibilities while demonstrating advanced maturity. Since it's a legal process, it must be handled through the courts. The process through which a minor goes before a court to request emancipation is called a petition for emancipation.

Below is a summary of the court procedure for the emancipation of minors and how courts reach decisions in these cases, including the consideration of a minor's best interests.

Emancipation Court Procedure: Petition Requirements

Minors petitioning their state courts for emancipation from their parents' care and control are normally required to prove their age and that they're residents of the state where the petition is being filed. They must tell the court why they're seeking emancipation. Parents generally must be given notice of the proceeding.

In addition, minors must show the court that they're sufficiently mature to care for themselves. This means that the minor can financially support him or herself, provide for his or her own shelter, and make appropriate decisions on his or her own behalf. Some states require that the minors already support themselves and live totally or partially on their own.

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

Minor's Best Interests

The court then looks at all the evidence in order to determine whether emancipation is in the minor's best interests. This best interests concept is similar to the test applied in child custody cases. Since an emancipation order must be in the minor's best interests, if the minor's situation changes, such an order can (in some states) be rescinded by the court and the minor declared to be returned to the parents' care and control.

The court procedure for the emancipation of minors in Illinois, for example, allows for decrees of "partial" emancipation. This means the court clearly states the limits of the particular emancipation, if such an order is in the best interests of the minor.

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 in that state. Minors file a petition with the court and provide the information necessary, such as the following:

  • Whether the minor is able to support himself or herself financially, either currently or in the future
  • Whether the minor is currently living apart from his or her parents or has made adequate arrangements for future housing
  • Whether the minor can adequately make decisions for himself or herself
  • Whether the minor is attending school or has already received a diploma
  • Whether the minor exhibits sufficient maturity to function as an adult

The court then determines whether such a confirmation of emancipation from parental care and control is in the best interests of the minor.

Questions? Get Legal Help for Your Emancipation Case Today

There are many reasons why a minor would want to petition the court for emancipation. Perhaps there are serious disagreements with a guardian or maybe the minor is planning to move in with another family figure. Regardless of the reason, an experienced attorney can walk you through the court procedure. Get started today by contacting a family law attorney near you.

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