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Can You Get Emancipated From Only One Parent?

By George Khoury, Esq. on September 26, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A minor generally cannot become emancipated from just one parent unless there is only one parent, such as when one of the minor's parents has died, or has terminated their parental rights. Emancipation of a minor terminates all parental custodial rights, which in turn makes that minor an adult for legal purposes.

While we've all heard the stories of young celebrities that sought emancipation from their parents, it is important to note that there are many reasons why celebrities, as minors, would choose to petition for emancipation. Drew Barrymore, at 15, sought emancipation to become an adult in order to avoid child labor laws so that she could better pursue her acting career. On the other hand, Macaulay Culkin and Corey Feldman both sought emancipation after learning of their parents' financial mismanagement of their earnings.

Emancipation Cannot Be Used in Place of Seeking Sole Custody

Divorced parents often inquire whether seeking emancipation for their child can result in terminating the other parent's custodial rights. Usually, this arises where there is a messy custody battle, or one parent believes the other parent is sabotaging the parent/child relationship, or worse, abusing/neglecting their child. Emancipation is not proper in these circumstances. Instead, seeking counseling, mediation, or sole custody, are the proper courses of action to take. In the case of abuse/neglect, the police should be contacted.

While emancipation would terminate the other parent's custodial rights, it happens by default because it terminates both parents' custodial rights. Emancipation is all or nothing. If a minor is emancipated, both parents lose their legal custodial rights.

Considerations for Emancipation

When the courts evaluate whether to emancipate a minor, they look to whether the minor:

  • Can support themselves financially post-emancipation
  • Has a stable living arrangement post-emancipation
  • Is mature enough to make adult decisions
  • Is continuing or has completed high school

Also, most states require that children/minors be at least 16 years old. However, in California, courts will consider minors as young as 14, particularly for child actors.

While emancipation may end a parent's legal responsibility to their child, it does not mean a parent cannot continue to support their child. In most states, in certain situations, such as when a minor joins the military or gets married, emancipation is automatic.

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