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Selected State Minor Emancipation Laws

A child legally becomes an adult at the age of majority, which is 18 or 19 in most states. But there are certain instances where someone under the age of majority may want to assume the rights and responsibilities of adulthood, such as when a minor gets married or otherwise has the means and mental maturity to live apart from one's parents. The legal process of becoming an adult before the age of majority is called emancipation. State minor emancipation laws differ in terms of age limits, circumstances surrounding the request, and court procedures.

Of the states with specific minor emancipation provisions, some of the more significant state requirements include the following:

Alabama In Alabama, the age of majority is nineteen. The Alabama code describing the emancipation procedure is designed to expand the rights of minors over the age of 18 but under the age of majority. Parents can file an emancipation petition with the court or the minor seeking emancipation can file the petition if that minor has no parents or if a living parent is insane or has abandoned the minor. The court will then decide if a decree of emancipation is in the "interest of such minor."
California In California, the age of majority is eighteen. Minors are considered emancipated without court intervention if they are married, are a member of the armed forces, or have previously been declared emancipated by a California court. Otherwise, in order to seek court mandated emancipation, the minors must be no younger than fourteen years old, be already living apart from their parents, be able to demonstrate the ability to take adequate care of themselves financially, and not receive any income from illegal or criminal activity.

If the court grants the order of emancipation, the minor then has the privilege and right to sign contracts; approve medical care; buy, lease, and sell real property; be the plaintiff or defendant in a law suit; write a will; live in their own home; go to school and get a work permit. If the minor's situation changes, the court has the ability to end the emancipation and advise the minor's parents that they are once again responsible for the minor.
Florida The age of majority in Florida is eighteen. In order to seek a court mandated emancipation, minors must submit a statement of "character, habits, income, and mental capacity for business, and an explanation of how the needs of the minor with respect to food, shelter, clothing, medical care, and other necessities will be met." In addition, minors must state whether they are party to any court action taking place in Florida or another state. Minors must also submit a statement explaining why they seek an order of emancipation. Parents must be notified of any such proceeding.

The court then asks for any additional evidence to determine if the decree of emancipation is in the minors'best interest. If the order of emancipation is granted, the minor will have all of the rights, responsibilities, and privileges of anyone who has reached the age of majority (eighteen years of age).
Illinois The age of majority in Illinois is eighteen. The Illinois statute allows the court to give an order of emancipation to a "mature minor who has demonstrated the ability and capacity to manage his (or her) own affairs and to live wholly or partially independent of his (or her) parents." The Illinois statute also seeks to tailor the content of the emancipation order to fit the needs of the minor seeking the order.

The statute states that for an order of emancipation from the court to be valid, neither the parents nor the minor can offer any objections. Also, the court will examine the situation and determine whether a full or partial order of emancipation will be given. Also, once the emancipation order is entered, the court will determine what adult privileges and rights, in addition to the right to enter into contracts, will be given the minor. Only those rights listed in the order will be in effect for that minor.

In order to seek a court mandated emancipation order, the minor must be at least sixteen years old but under eighteen years old. The minor must confirm that he or she lives in Illinois, explain why he or she wants a complete or partial order or emancipation, demonstrate that he or she is a "mature minor," and show that he or she has lived on their own.
Michigan The age of majority in Michigan is eighteen. The Michigan statute defines emancipation as the "termination of the rights of the parents to the custody, control, services and earnings of a minor." Absent an order of emancipation, the statute confirms that parents are responsible for supporting their minor children. In fact, one or both parents can object to the emancipation proceedings. In that case, the court may decide to dismiss the proceedings.

The Michigan statute states the four ways that a minor can be emancipated without a court order as being by marriage, reaching the age of majority (eighteen years of age), joining the armed forces, and temporarily while in police custody in order to consent to needed medical treatment.

The statute requires the petition to the court to be brought by the minor. The minors must submit information showing that they can take care of themselves financially, without seeking assistance from the state of Michigan. Minors must also show the court that they can take care of their other personal needs as well. The petition to the court must include a statement from an adult sufficiently familiar with the minor that the individual can offer information that explains to the court why emancipation is "in the best interest of the minor."

At this point, the court may seek additional information and may ask someone from the court staff to investigate the situation further and report back to the court. The court then determines if an order of emancipation is in the minor's best interests.

If the minor is emancipated, the adult rights and responsibilities applicable to the minor do not include those limited by age and by law such as using and purchasing alcohol and voting. However, they do include signing contracts, being a plaintiff or defendant to a law suit, keeping whatever money the minor earns, living away from the parents, approving health care and medical procedures, getting married, writing a will, and enrolling in school.

If the minor's circumstances change, the emancipation order can be rescinded by the court. If that happens, the parents "are not liable for any debts incurred by the minor during the period of emancipation."

North Carolina The age of majority in North Carolina is eighteen. A minor must be at least sixteen years of age in order to seek an order of emancipation from the court. The court will consider several factors including the parents'need for the minor's earnings as well as the minor's ability to accept adult responsibilities in determining the best interests of the minor.

If the emancipation is granted, the minor will have the adult rights to sign contracts, take part in law suits, and conduct other adult-related business. The parents'duties of support to the minor are thereby ended.
Oregon The age of majority in Oregon is eighteen. A minor must be sixteen years of age to seek an order of emancipation from the court. The minor must show that they can support him or herself and otherwise assume adult responsibilities. If the court determines that an order of emancipation is in the best interests of the minor, then the minor "has all of the rights and is subject to all liabilities of a citizen of full age."
Vermont A minor must be at least sixteen years old in order to seek an order of emancipation from the court. Minors are considered to be emancipated without a court order if the y are married or have entered the armed forces. In order for the court to consider making an order of emancipation, the minors must have already lived separately from their parents, successfully taken care of their own finances, shown that they can take care of other personal business, either have received a high school diploma or are working toward one, and not be a ward of the social services or corrections department.
West Virginia A minor must be at lease sixteen years old in order to seek an order of emancipation from the court. Minors must also show the court that they can provide for themselves and their "physical and financial well-being and has the ability to make decisions" for themselves. If an emancipation order is entered, minors have the rights and privileges of adults.

Confused About State Emancipation Laws? An Attorney Can Help

Emancipation statutes and procedures can be quite complicated, particularly for young people who haven't studied the finer points of family law. But for some minors, emancipation is an important first step toward independence. Get a handle on your legal situation by speaking with a family law attorney in your state.

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