Monday, January 28, 2013

Emancipation of minors- Things you need to know

Here are some common questions about emancipation:
First off, what is emancipation?
e·man·ci·pa·tion [ih-man-suh-pey-shuhn]
Freeing someone from the control of another; especially a parent’s relinquishing authority and control over a minor.  

What's the difference between being a minor and being an emancipated minor?

A minor is a person under the age of full legal responsibility.

An emancipated minor is anyone under the age of 18 that has been bestowed an adult by the court order or another formal arrangement.
·      This is not automatically bestowed on minors that have moved out of their parents’ home.
·      The majority of legally emancipated minors are working teenager that have demonstrated the ability to financially support themselves.  
Why would you seek emancipation?
There are many reasons why one might seek emancipation. Some young people are physically or emotionally abused and want to get away from a bad home environment.  Sometimes a minor is very wealthy (a child actor, for example) and seeks emancipation for financial and tax reasons. Other minors feel that they just cannot get along with their parents or guardians. Emancipation is just one option in these situations.


What happens when one is emancipated?
When a child reaches the age of majority, usually 18 years old, one is fully emancipated from parental control. At this point, he or she can exercise and enjoy the privileges and responsibilities of adulthood such as voting, marriage, and financial independence.
·      “If a minor becomes emancipated, he or she is entitled to make almost all of his or her own medical, dental or psychiatric care decisions. He or she may enter into a contract, sue someone else and be sued in his or her own name, make a will, buy or sell property, and apply for a work permit without needing parental consent. The emancipated minor must take care of his or her own financial affairs and prove he or she has the ability to support himself or herself. The emancipated minor is still obligated to attend school and still cannot marry without parental consent.” (
Many states do not allow emancipated minors to:

·      Get married without parental consent
·      Quit school
·      Buy or drink alcohol
·      Vote
·      Get a driver's license (before the legal age at which they would ordinarily be able to do so).

Who can be emancipated?
The age at which a minor can petition for (or sometimes declare) emancipation varies for each state. But for Washington state, one must be a resident of Washington and must be 16 or 17.

For Washington state:
Do I qualify to be emancipated?
Only if you prove all of the following by clear and convincing evidence:
Residency - You are a resident of Washington;
Ability to Handle Financial Affairs - You can manage your own financial
Ability to Handle Other Affairs - You can manage your own educational, personal, social, and any other affairs; and
Denying Emancipation Would Harm You - If your parent, guardian, or custodian opposes your petition, you must also prove that it would be bad for you if the court did not emancipate you.


How do you become emancipated?

Emancipation by court permission
Some (not all) states allow a minor to be emancipated by court order. Usually, the minor must be at least 16 years old to do this (in California, minors as young as 14 may petition the court for emancipation). The court will grant emancipation if it believes that doing so will serve the young person's best interest; a determination that is typically based on factors such as:
·      Whether the minor can be financially self-sufficient (usually through employment, as opposed to government aid or welfare)
·      Whether the minor is currently living apart from parents or guardians or has made alternative living arrangements
·      Whether the minor is sufficiently mature to make decisions and to function as an adult, and
·      Whether the minor is going to school or has received a high school diploma

Emancipation by marriage
In most states, minors automatically achieve emancipation once they get married. But in order to get married, minors must comply with state marriage requirements. States set a minimum age for marriage and often require minors to get parental consent or court approval before getting married. For example, in order to get married in California, a minor must be:
1) At least 14 years old
2) Accompanied by a parent or legal guardian
3) Appear before the court

Emancipation by military enlistment
Minors can become emancipated by enlisting in the United States Armed Forces. Since military policies currently require enlistees to have a high school diploma or GED, most young people are at least 17 or 18 before they become emancipated through enlistment.

A few states and territories (like Louisiana and Puerto Rico) allow a fourth form of limited emancipation that requires only parental consent, not the court's permission.


What are some procedures for emancipation?
Minors who are seeking emancipation through a court order must follow the petitioning procedures that are set out by their state's law. Though the process varies from state to state, here's what the court procedure for filing an emancipation petition typically looks like.

1.    Petition: The emancipation petition must be filed by the minor (or by an attorney on the minor's behalf). Usually, the petition includes an explanation of why the minor is seeking emancipation, information about the minor's current living situation, and evidence that the minor is (or soon will be) financially self-sufficient.
2.    Notification of parents: In most states, minors must notify their parents or legal guardians that a petition for emancipation has been filed -- or explain to the court why they do not want to do so.
3.    Hearing: In most cases, the court schedules a hearing where the judge asks questions and hears evidence to decide whether emancipation is in the minor's best interest.
4.    Declaration of emancipation: If the court decides that emancipation should be ordered, it will issue a Declaration of Emancipation. The newly emancipated minor should keep copies of the declaration and give them to schools, doctors, landlords, and anyone else that would normally require parental consent before dealing with a minor.


Are there any alternatives to emancipation?
Other avenues to explore include:
·      Getting help from government or private agencies
·      Getting counseling for yourself or your family
·      Using a mediator to discuss and resolve differences with your parents
·      Living with another responsible adult
·      Living on your own with the informal consent of your parents.


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