A minor may be emancipated through a court process that allows the minor to become self-sufficient and assume adult responsibilities before reaching the age of majority. This also means that the minor is no longer under the care of his or her parents. Similarly, the parents are no longer expected to support the child in any way, including providing shelter, medical care, or money.
Along with the freedom that emancipation may offer, comes new rights, privileges, and duties of an adult world. This article discusses these aspects of emancipation.
The Effects of Emancipation
Once declared emancipated, minors have the same rights, privileges, and duties in society as adults. Although the specific rules vary among the states, emancipated minors can typically do the following:
- Live away from his or her parents
- Keep whatever money he or she earns
- Enter into contracts and leases
- Be a party to a lawsuit (either as a plaintiff or a defendant) in their own name
- Buy or sell real estate or other property
- Write a legally valid will
- Inherit property
- Enroll in high school, post-secondary school, or a vocational program
- Get married
- Agree to various types of medical treatment
It's important to keep in mind that emancipation rights and privileges can vary by state. For example, in Illinois, the court will determine what rights and privileges the minor will be given and only those rights listed in the court order will be in effect. However, in most states, an emancipated minor still can't participate in activities that are banned by law until they reach a certain age. This includes drinking alcohol, obtaining a driver's license, or voting. An emancipated minor can't quit school before the age of sixteen since federal law requires minors to attend school until that age.
Also, since the minor's parents are no longer legally obligated to support the emancipated minor, they are also not legally responsible for any of the minor's actions. Under normal circumstances, parents may be held liable for a minor's negligent or wrongful acts. However, an emancipated minor will be sued individually for his own actions.
The Emancipation Process
If a minor seeks emancipation, he or she must file a petition with the court. Parents may also file a petition for emancipation. The court will then determine if it's in the best interest of the minor to be emancipated by looking at factors such as the minor's living situation, if the minor can support himself financially, and the maturity level of the minor. However, each state's criteria may differ slightly, so a minor who wishes to seek emancipation should check his state resources.
In some situations, a minor may be granted an “implied partial emancipation" by the court. This means that the minor will be emancipated in with regard to certain purposes, but not for others. In these situations, the parents might only be responsible for the physical well-being of the child.
Talk to an Expert About the Rights, Privileges, and Duties of Emancipation
Whether you would like to become legally emancipated or just have questions about the process, it's often helpful to discuss these issues with a family law attorney. A lawyer can help you determine whether you're eligible, provide sound advice on the process, and guide you on how the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of emancipation would apply to you.
Consider speaking with a family law attorney in your area to learn more.