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Heather Jones

If you have come across this article, is it likely that you are considering asking to become an emancipated minor. Becoming emancipated can seem like an exciting idea. Finally, you get to call all the shots and be in complete control of your life. On the other hand, you will be solely responsible for your own care and well-being, and that is a lot of work financially speaking. Read on to find out more about what the emancipation process really involves and what you can expect as an emancipated minor under family law.  

What Does Emancipated Mean?

Emancipated literally means being liberated or set free. In this context, being an emancipated minor means that the minor is now free from any rules or restraints that their parents or guardians had in place. In other words, it means that your parents or guardian no longer have any say in what you do with your life. On the flip side of this is that you have lost any protection that your parents or guardians provided for you. You will also no longer be able to expect that they will provide you with any care or support from this time forward. If you become emancipated, you will be free to do as you want, but you will also be responsible for taking care of yourself. You will be responsible for your own housing, food, gas, transportation, and medical care. If you have not graduated high school yet, you will still be required to attend. In other words, emancipation may stand for freedom, but you will be expected to adhere to the law and provide for yourself.  


How Old Do You Have To Be To Get Emancipated?


States' laws vary wildly in regard to what age a child can ask to become emancipated. For instance, the state of Wisconsin does not allow it unless the child gets married (with parental consent) or joins the armed forces. Generally speaking, the states that do allow emancipation will not even consider the request until the child is at least 14 years old, and even then, it is a tough battle to get the declaration of emancipation from the court.  

What Are The Benefits Of Being Emancipated?


Some of the benefits of emancipation are that you no longer have to ask permission to go somewhere or follow the household rules your parents or guardian may have in place for you. You can eat and drink what you want, watch what you want to, and hang out wherever or with whoever you choose. You can enter into legal contracts (for example, you can rent a place to live and sign a lease agreement), you can sue someone in court, or you can buy your own car. On the other hand, you still cannot drink until you are 21. If you are under the age of 18, you cannot buy tobacco products. You may also live in a state that still requires parental consent for you to marry, even if you are emancipated.  Read more in our article on When should a Minor Seek Emancipation?


How Does Being Emancipated Affect Someone Under 18?


Being on your own can be really tough, even for people who have reached their legal majority and feel prepared to enter the adult world of work, bills, taxes, and multiple other responsibilities. Even though you are out on your own, you still cannot partake in many adult privileges such as going to a bar and ordering a drink, buying tobacco products, or voting in the elections. You cannot purchase a firearm if you are under the age of 18. Being emancipated does not automatically make you an adult in the eyes of the law. You will still be restricted from doing certain things while having complete responsibility to take care of yourself. Sometimes a minor asks for emancipation because they are very wealthy, and it is to further their interests in regard to investments and paying taxes. Other times a minor will ask for emancipation because they are being physically or mentally abused at home. If the latter is the case, it would be smart to look at asking the state for help instead of asking for emancipation right away. If you ask the state for help, the burden of being totally financially responsible for your well-being could be put off for a few more years until you feel more ready to take on that challenge.  

What States Allow The Emancipation Of Minors?


As covered earlier in the article, state laws vary wildly in regard to allowing emancipation. Generally speaking, most states will allow your parents or guardian to petition for emancipation of a minor as young as the age of 14. Some states will not even consider it until the child is at least 16 or 17 years old. Those states will also allow emancipation by marriage (with parental consent) and if you enter the armed forces (provided you have a high school diploma). If you are considering emancipation, the best course of action is to schedule a consultation with an experienced attorney in your state who can advise you in regard to the relevant laws and the likelihood of success should a petition be filed.  


What Is The General Procedure To Secure Emancipation?


Petition: Most states actually require that the parents or guardians of the minor file the petition for emancipation. Unemancipated minors cannot file petitions with the court.  

Notification of parents: Proper notice of both parents is required for the petition to move forward to a hearing.  

Hearing: The court will look at evidence relevant to the maturity of the minor, the circumstances at home, and the necessity of emancipation. The court will require substantial evidence that a declaration of emancipation of the minor is in the child's best interest. In other words, it will not be a quick and easy process. Also, remember that for a court to terminate parental rights and not require parents to provide care for their children is something that courts are reluctant to do. The courts are reluctant because it creates a common law precedent where parents can conceivably get out of providing for their children.  

Declaration of emancipation: If the court is satisfied that emancipation is reasonable under the circumstances, a declaration of emancipation will be signed.  

To a teenager, emancipation can sound like a good solution to problems at home. In reality, emancipation actually puts greater responsibility on a child while still not allowing the child to enjoy adult privileges. If you are considering asking for emancipation, the best first step after discussing it with your parents or guardian is to consult with an experienced emancipation attorney who can advise you on the laws and process in your state of residence. Feel free to give the attorneys at O'Flaherty Law a call, and we would be happy to help you.  

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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