Emancipation is the court process through which a minor becomes a legal adult responsible for his or her own care. A minor has to meet certain requirements for the court to grant him or her emancipation. After these requirements are met, the judge considers the "best interests" of the child. This best interest concept is similar to the best interests considered in child support cases.
The criteria for an emancipation ruling are discussed below.
Preliminary Requirements for an Emancipation Proceeding
First, the child must meet the minimum age at which the state emancipation law allows children to be emancipated. For example, the child must be at least 14 in California, 16 in Illinois, and 18 in Alabama where the age of majority is 19. Court proceedings, including emancipation, can be quite slow, so if you’re already only a few months from the age of majority, it may be better to just wait until you are of age.
Also, the parents usually must be notified of the emancipation proceeding. Parents may object to the proceeding, however. In Illinois, if a parent objects to an emancipation proceeding, it ends the case without emancipation, whereas in Michigan a parent's objection will only result in the court possibly dismissing the matter.
Best Interests of the Child
Before issuing an emancipation ruling, the court will decide what's in the minor's best interests. While these criteria vary by state, common factors include:
Additional Considerations for Emancipation Rulings
State laws may require additional information. For example, emancipation petitions in Georgia must include the names of adults who know about the minor's circumstances, such as his or her school counselor, landlord, and pastor. If there’s no state law specifically addressing emancipation procedures, then common law or cases previously decided on the issue of emancipation will determine what the child must do or prove in order to be emancipated.
Have Questions About an Emancipation Ruling? An Attorney Can Help
Emancipation is an important process that will have a significant impact on your life. But are you ready for the process and what will follow? There's no reason to go through this alone. Instead, an experienced family law attorney can help advise you about your rights during the process and can also be your advocate in court. Find a family law attorney licensed to practice in your area today.