What is Emancipation?
Emancipation of minors refers to a set of laws that allows a minor to conduct business on their own behalf or for their own benefit that is regarded as outside the influence of their guardian or parent. An emancipated minor, although under the age of majority, will assume most adult responsibilities. An emancipated minor is therefore deemed, by the state, to be responsible for their own care—the individual is no longer under the care of their parents or guardians. The emancipation of minors enables the minor to have full contractual capacity to conclude contract with regard to their business endeavor.
In the United States, children are regarded as minors and are thus placed under the control of their parents or legal guardians, until they reach the age of majority. When the individual reaches the age of majority (in most cases 18 years of age) they are regarded as adult beings.
The precise laws for obtaining emancipation will vary from state to state. In most states in the U.S., the minor is required to file petition with the family court in the underlying jurisdiction. The petition signifies the formal request for formal emancipation; the petition will cite reasons as to why it is in their best interest to become emancipated.
Emancipations are very difficult to obtain because of the attached subjectivity of the “best interest” clause. In most cases, the state’s department of child services will be contacted and the child will be placed in foster care. In other cases, such as those where the minor is dissatisfied with their parents or guardian’s rules, the attempt to secure emancipation will be denied.
In addition to the laws surrounding the obtainment of emancipation, specialized provisions will dictate what the minor is legally allowed to do under state law. For example, an emancipated minor—depending on state law-- may not get married without parental consent, quit school, drink or purchase alcohol or vote.
If a minor does achieve emancipation the individual can partake in the following efforts and activities:
• The emancipated minor can enter into a legally-binding contract, including real estate purchases or rentals
• The emancipated minor can enroll in the school of his or her choice
• The emancipated minor can sue or be sued in the court of law
• The emancipated minor can apply for work and keep income generated from work
• The emancipated minor can make healthcare decisions, including those relating to birth control and abortions
How is Emancipation Obtained?
Emancipation is obtained in the following three ways: marriage, military or obtaining permission from a court.
In most states, a minor will automatically secure emancipation once they get married. However, in order to get married, the minor must comply with state marriage requirements, which will indefinitely set a minimum age for marriage and require the minor’s parents to be present during the ceremony.
Minors can become emancipated by enlisting in the United States military, however, since military policy requires enlistees to have at least a high school diploma or equivalent, emancipation is rare through enlistment.
A few states will allow a minor to emancipate via a court order. Typically, the minor must be at least 16 years of age to receive emancipation through the court system. A court may grant emancipation if it believe it is doing so to serve the individual’s best interest—this determination is based on the following factors;
• Can the minor be financially self-sufficient through employment
• Is the minor living apart from his or her parents or has the minor made alternative living arrangements
• Is the minor mature enough to make decisions and function as an adult
• Is the minor attending school or has he/she received a high school diploma
NEXT: Age of Majority Overview