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What Is Emancipation?

Contents

    Emancipation is releasing a minor child from the care and control of the minor’s parents. Emancipation can happen by a court order or operation of law.

    Parents’ Duties & Rights

    Parents have a duty to care for and support their children. So do guardians or custodians who act like parents. Parents also have the right to make decisions for their minor children. Minors can’t enter contracts, sue in court, or set up their own homes. Parents can tell their minor child’s employer to give the child’s paycheck to them.

    These rights and duties continue until a child turns 18 years old. But they change when a child is emancipated. Read the article My Child Wants to Be Emancipated to learn what emancipation means for parents, guardians, and custodians.

    An Emancipated Minor’s Rights

    Emancipation gives a minor many of an adult’s legal rights and responsibilities. An emancipated minor can:

    • Live on his or her own

    • Keep the money he or she earns

    • Register for school

    • Get married

    • Make a will

    • Authorize his or her 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 welfare, such as cash or food assistance

    • Make decisions for his or her own child

    An emancipated minor can’t vote or consume alcohol.

    Emancipation by Court Order

    Emancipation by court order starts when a minor files a petition with the court asking to be emancipated. A minor must be at least 16 years old to be emancipated.

    The court must order the emancipation if it decides it’s in the minor’s best interest. 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 his or her own financial affairs AND

      • Can manage his or her personal and social affairs AND

      • Understands his or her responsibilities as an emancipated person

    Read the article I Want to Be Emancipated to learn about how to get emancipated.

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

    Emancipation by Operation of Law

    “By operation of law” means there are no more steps to change legal status. For example, a person who turns 18 years old is automatically emancipated.

    A minor is emancipated by operation of law when the minor is legally married. A minor who is on active duty with the U.S. Armed Forces is emancipated only while on active duty.

    Temporary Emancipations for health or medical reasons

    A minor can be emancipated when in a law enforcement agency’s custody and a parent can’t be located. This is temporary. It is only so the minor can consent to routine medical care or emergency treatment.

    A temporarily emancipated minor can’t agree to procedures relating to reproduction.

    The parents of a minor who was temporarily emancipated by operation of law must still support him or her. The minor’s parent must pay for any medical care a temporarily emancipated minor gets.

    Ending Emancipation

    A parent or minor can ask the court to cancel an emancipation order. A court will cancel the order if:

    • The minor has no way to support him or herself

    • The minor and parent agree the order should be canceled OR

    • The family has reunited and is living together again.

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