A minor may be emancipated through a court process that allows the minor to become self-sufficient and assume adult responsibilities before reaching the age of majority. This also means that the minor is no longer under the care of his or her parents. Similarly, the parents are no longer expected to support the child in any way, including providing shelter, medical care, or money.
Rights and Privileges
Once declared to be emancipated, minors have the same rights, privileges, and duties in society as adults. Although the specific rules vary among the states, emancipated minors can typically do the following:
Live away from his or her parents
Keep whatever money he or she earns
Enter into contracts and leases
Be a party to a lawsuit (either as a plaintiff or a defendant) in their own name
Buy or sell real estate or other property
Write a legally valid will
Enroll in school
Agree to various types of medical treatment
It's important to keep in mind that emancipation rights and privileges can vary by state. For example, in Illinois, the court will determine what rights and privileges the minor will be given and only those rights listed in the court order will be in effect. However, in most states, an emancipated minor still can't participate in activities that are banned by law until they reach a certain age. This includes drinking alcohol, obtaining a driver's license, or voting. An emancipated minor can't quit school before the age of sixteen since federal law requires minors to attend school until that age.
Also, since the minor's parents are no longer legally obligated to support the emancipated minor, they are also not responsible for any of the minor's actions. Under normal circumstances, parents may be held liable for a minor's negligent or wrongful acts. However, an emancipated minor will be sued individually for his own actions.
Minors Seeking Emancipation
If a minor seeks emancipation, he or she must file a petition with the court. Parents may also file a petition for emancipation. The court will then determine if it's in the best interests of the minor to be emancipated by looking at factors such as the minor's living situation, if the minor can support himself financially, and the maturity level of the minor. However, each state's criteria may differ slightly, so a minor who wishes to seek emancipation should check his state resources.
In some situations, a minor may be granted an “implied partial emancipation” by the court. This means that the minor will be emancipated in with regards to certain purposes, but not for others. For example, the court could hold that the parents be responsible for the minor's medical bills for an ongoing medical issue, but hold that he be emancipated in all other aspects of his life.
For more information on the specifics regarding the emancipation of a minor and its court procedures, please visit Findlaw's Emancipation Laws page.
Find Out More About Emancipation Privileges and Obligations
Whether you would like to become legally emancipated or just have questions about the process, it's often helpful to discuss these issues with a family law attorney. A lawyer can help you determine whether you're eligible and provide sound advice on the process. You may wish to speak with a family law attorney in your area to learn more.