Emancipation Law & Legal Definition


Emancipation is when a minor has achieved independence from his or her parents, such as by getting married before reaching age 18 or by becoming fully self-supporting. It may be possible for a child to petition a court for emancipation to free the minor child from the control of parents and allow the minor to live on his/her own or under the control of others. It usually applies to adolescents who leave the parents' household by agreement or demand.

Some of the most common methods for a minor to become emancipated include marriage, reaching the age of majority, entering military service, or by court order. A parent may also formally or informally agree to give up some or all of his/her parental control. For example, a parent might consent to allowing a child to establish a separate household. In other cases, a parent may force the minor to leave and support him/herself. Generally, parental consent is required, except in cases of parental misconduct that causes the mnior to leave the home. Emancipation may cease to make a parent liable for the acts of a child, including debts, negligence or criminal acts. State laws on emancipation vary, so local laws should be consulted for specific requirements in your area.

Sometimes the emancipation of a child ends the obligation of a divorced parent to pay child support. When a child reaches the age of emancipation, the duty of a parent for child support often ends. However, the age of emancipation varies by state. Also, a parent may be obligated to support a child for a longer period, such as through college, under a divorce decree. Emancipation will not relieve a parent from obligations to pay past due child support amounts.

Requirements for emancipation vary by state, but typically a minor who seeks a court order of emancipation must prove that:

  1. The minor is a certain minimum age or older.
  2. They willingly want to live separate and apart from their parents with the consent or acquiescence of the parents. (The parents do not object to the minor living apart from them.)
  3. The minor can manage their own finances.
  4. The minor has a source of income that does not come from any illegal activity.
  5. Emancipation would not be contrary to the minor's best interests; it is good for them.

State laws vary, so local laws and domestic relations or family court procedures should be consulted for specific requirements. Some state statutes provide for recognizing the emancipated status of a minor granted emancipation in another state.

The following is an example of a Florida statute involving emancipation:

"743.015 Disabilities of nonage; removal.

  1. A circuit court has jurisdiction to remove the disabilities of nonage of a minor age 16 or older residing in this state upon a petition filed by the minor's natural or legal guardian or, if there is none, by a guardian ad litem.
  2. The petition shall contain the following information:
  3. (a) The name, address, residence, and date of birth of the minor. (b) The name, address, and current location of each of the minor's parents, if known. (c) The name, date of birth, custody, and location of any children born to the minor. (d) A statement of the minor's character, habits, education, income, and mental capacity for business, and an explanation of how the needs of the minor with respect to food, shelter, clothing, medical care, and other necessities will be met. (e) Whether the minor is a party to or the subject of a pending judicial proceeding in this state or any other jurisdiction, or the subject of a judicial order of any description issued in connection with such pending judicial proceeding. (f) A statement of the reason why the court should remove the disabilities of nonage.

  4. If the petition is filed by the natural or legal guardian, the court must appoint an attorney ad litem for the minor child, and the minor child shall be brought before the court to determine if the interest of the minor will be fully protected by the removal of disabilities of nonage. The attorney ad litem shall represent the child in all related proceedings.
  5. If the petition is filed by the guardian ad litem or next friend, service of process must be perfected on the natural parents.
  6. If both parents are not jointly petitioning the court for the removal of the disabilities of nonage of the minor, service of process must be made upon the nonpetitioning parent. Constructive service of process may be used, provided the petitioning parent makes an actual, diligent search to discover the location of, and provide notice to, the nonpetitioning parent.
  7. The court shall consider the petition and receive such evidence as it deems necessary to rule on the petition. If the court determines that removal of the disabilities of nonage is in the minor's best interest, it shall enter an order to that effect. An order removing the disabilities of nonage shall have the effect of giving the minor the status of an adult for purposes of all criminal and civil laws of the state, and shall authorize the minor thereafter to exercise all of the rights and responsibilities of persons who are 18 years of age or older.
  8. The court shall consider the petition and, if satisfied that the removal of the disabilities is in the minor's best interest, shall remove the disabilities of nonage; and shall authorize the minor to perform all acts that the minor could do if he or she were 18 years of age.
  9. The judgment shall be recorded in the county in which the minor resides, and a certified copy shall be received as evidence of the removal of disabilities of nonage for all matters in all courts."

Some states have medical emancipation statutes which allow minors to consent to medical treatment without parental knowledge, approval, or consent. Medical emancipation statutes may be separated into two categories. First, they may authorize minors to consent to their own health care treatment because of a their emancipated status. Second, they may authorize minors to consent to what are considered to be particularly sensitive medical services. A minor may consent to care related to the prevention or treatment of pregnancy. A minor may consent to treatment of an infectious, contagious, or communicable disease or to care related to the diagnosis or treatment of rape. A minor may consent to care related to the diagnosis or treatment of sexual assault. A minor may consent to care related to the diagnosis or treatment of drug-related or alcohol-related problems. A minor may consent to mental health treatment, counseling, or residential shelter services if (1) the minor is mature enough to participate intelligently, in the opinion of the health care provider, and (2) the minor is either a danger to himself or herself or others without the treatment, or is the alleged victim of incest or child abuse. A minor of may consent to HIV testing. Further, the records of these medical services are kept confidential from the minor’s parent or guardian, unless the minor consents to such disclosure. Medical emancipation statutes vary by state, so local laws should be consulted.