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Just about every teenager dreams of the day they can live on their own, yet few understand the emotional or legal process of making that dream a reality. While most courts consider you an adult when you turn 18, you can get that legal recognition when you're younger -- but it can involve a lot more paperwork than many teens expect.
Here are three things you need to know about becoming an emancipated minor.
Let's start with the process, because it won't be easy. First, you still need to be 16 or 17 years old, depending on the state you live in, before you can even petition the court for emancipation. Your petition will need to demonstrate that emancipation is in your best interest, and you must give proper notice to your parents that you're filing for emancipation.
Then the court will review your case to examine the state of your relationship with your parents and determine whether you are sufficiently mature, have the ability to provide income and shelter, and are obtaining an education. A decision either way will be made in what the court believes are your "best interests."
Emancipation is one way to sever family ties. But to be clear, that's all that emancipation does. Just because you are legally emancipated doesn't mean that you have all the legal privileges of someone who is 18 or 21. For example, you still can't buy cigarettes until you're 18 or alcohol until you're 21.
There are certain things you can do, and contracts you can sign, whether you are emancipated or not. And while the general rule is that minors lack the capacity to enter into legally-binding contracts, there are a few exceptions. So if you're striking out on your own to start a business or getting your first job, make sure you know which contracts are voidable and which will be enforced.
Emancipation isn't easy, emotionally or legally. Make sure you consult with an experienced family law attorney before beginning your emancipation process.