My Child Wants to Be Emancipated

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This article explains what you can expect if your child wants to be emancipated. To learn what it means to be emancipated, read the article What is Emancipation?

Parents have a duty to care for and support their children. Parents also have the right to make decisions for their minor children. Minors can’t enter into contracts, sue in court, or set up their own homes. These rights and duties continue until a child turns 18 years old. But they change when a child is emancipated.

Guardians and custodians also have a duty to care for and support the children in their custody. If you are a guardian or custodian, wherever it says parents in this article, assume it means you.

The Petition for Emancipation

The process of emancipation starts when a child who is at least 16 years old files a Petition for Emancipation in court. The judge must order the emancipation if they decide it’s in the minor’s best interests. The minor must prove:

  • The minor’s parents don’t object OR

  • If a parent objects, that parent is not financially supporting the minor AND

  • The minor:

    • Can handle their own financial affairs AND

    • Can manage their personal and social affairs AND

    • Understands their responsibilities as an emancipated person

Parents still have to support a child who has been emancipated. Parents do not have to pay debts the child incurs after being emancipated.

The Affidavit

The petition must include an affidavit from an adult. An affidavit is a written statement made under oath. The person who signs the affidavit is stating they believe emancipation is in your child’s best interests. It must be from someone who is a:

  • Physician or nurse

  • Minister, pastor, priest, rabbi or other clergy member

  • Psychologist

  • Family therapist

  • Certified social worker, social worker, or social work technician

  • School administrator, school counselor, or teacher

  • Law enforcement officer or

  • Regulated child care provider

The person who makes the affidavit can come to the hearing and testify. Or, they can waive the right to get any notice of the hearing.

When the Court Gets the Petition

After your child files the petition, the court has several options. It may:

  • Investigate the petition

  • Appoint a lawyer for your child

  • Appoint a lawyer for you if you can’t afford one and you oppose the petition

  • Dismiss the petition if you do not consent and do support the child, or

  • Have a hearing

If the court investigates the petition, a court employee will look into what your child said in it. This person may contact you, your child, and the person who made the affidavit. They might talk to other people, too.

If you can’t afford a lawyer and the judge decides you should have one, they might appoint one to represent you. They might also appoint a lawyer for your child.

The judge could also find you don’t agree with the emancipation and you support your child. If so, they may dismiss the petition.

If the court doesn’t dismiss the petition, there will be a hearing before a judge or a referee. Your child can ask for a judge instead of a referee. There is no right to a jury trial in an emancipation hearing.

Your Options

After the minor files the petition, they must serve a copy on you with a summons. This will tell you when the hearing will be. You can

  • Object to or oppose the petition, or

  • Agree with the petition

If you object to or oppose the petition, you can have a lawyer represent you. If you don’t go to the hearing about the emancipation, you lose the right to object to it.

If you support your child's emancipation, you can go to the hearing and tell the judge.

Going to Court

When people represent themselves in court, they are expected to follow the same rules lawyers do.

The hearing will be at the time and place on the notice. Attend the hearing and be prepared to present your case to the judge or referee. Bring any evidence to court you would like the judge to consider. If you are objecting to the petition, be ready to talk about why you object to it. 

Dress neatly. Arrive 10 or 15 minutes before the hearing is scheduled. It’s important to show up on time. Let the court know you’re there by telling the clerk or officer sitting by the judge’s bench, but do not interrupt the current proceeding.

Be prepared to spend most of the morning or afternoon in court. Bring any witnesses and your evidence with you. Remember to speak clearly, answer any questions the judge or referee asks, and don’t interrupt the judge, referee, or anyone else.

The judge or referee may hear the entire case at the first hearing. The judge or referee could also schedule another hearing date to finish your case.

If Your Child is Emancipated

If your child is emancipated, you are still legally obligated to support them. You are not responsible for any debts your child incurs as an emancipated minor.

If your child is emancipated, they will be able to:

  • Live on their own

  • Keep the money they earn

  • Register for school

  • Get married

  • Make a will

  • Authorize their own medical, dental, and mental health care

  • Enter contracts, including leases

  • Conduct business

  • Sue someone or be sued by someone

  • Apply for medical assistance, such as Medicaid

  • Apply for other assistance, such as cash or food assistance

An emancipated minor still can’t vote or consume alcohol.

Ending the Emancipation

You or your child can ask the court to rescind the emancipation order. A court will cancel the order if:

  • The child has no way to support themselves;

  • You and your child agree the order should be canceled; OR

  • Your child has moved back in with you.

To end an emancipation, you or your child can file a Petition to Rescind Order of Emancipation with the court. Read the article Ending Emancipation to learn more.