Emancipation: What it Means and Where it’s Legal

Child Emancipation, formally referred to as Emancipation of a Minor, is a legal process whereby a child under the age of 18 is legally declared an adult and assumes full responsibility for themselves, physically and financially. Becoming emancipated allows a person under the age of 18 to legally sign contracts, own property, and keep their own earnings.

The process of emancipation is very common in Hollywood, where there have been many child entertainers who seek emancipation to gain control over their finances. In California, a minor can ask the court for emancipation at the age of 14. However, the age at which emancipation is available varies by state. For example, in Connecticut, emancipation is only available beginning at the age of 16. Other requirements by which a court grants emancipation may also vary by state. However, the general requirements include marriage, active duty with the US armed forces, living separate and apart from the parents and lawfully managing their own finances, or a showing of good cause that emancipation is in the child’s best interest.

Although many of the cases we hear about involve minors seeking emancipation for financial reasons, depending on the facts of the situation, emancipation may also be the best solution in cases of abuse. For example, if a 17 year old comes from an abusive home, and therefore decides to leave the home and they are able to financial support themselves; it may be a good idea to seek emancipation. Without emancipation, they cannot consent to certain medical procedures, enroll in college, enter into binding contracts, or register a vehicle without parental consent.

Due to the controversial nature of emancipation, it is not offered in every state. States without emancipation generally use traditional means of addressing abuse home environments through Child Protective Services, which can include foster care placement. There are currently 30 states in the US which offer emancipation. These include Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Emancipations are usually handled by the trial court of general jurisdiction in the county where the child lives. Depending on the state, this court can be called Superior Court, District Court, or Circuit Court. Some general jurisdiction courts have a separate division that will handle emancipation cases, such as a Family division or Juvenile division.

To locate where emancipation cases occur in your state, visit Courtreference.com and click on your state of interest to review the trial court system and find links to court resources.�

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