Emancipation is the process of ending a parent’s or guardian’s legal authority over a child according to a family lawyer from Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC. Emancipation grants children the ability to make certain decisions and assume responsibilities that typically would fall upon the minor’s parent/guardian. Though emancipation is rarely in the best interest of most minors it may help those who would otherwise face struggles in their education, entering into contracts, receiving medical care, or securing houses. It may also help those that are struggling in a household that has been affected negatively by a personal injury case.
All 50 states have laws and regulations regarding the emancipation of minors. These laws discuss the different conditions that must be met in order for a minor to be independent of their parent/guardian for legal purposes. About half of the states have statutes for the specific purpose of emancipation. In order to be considered for emancipation in Texas, for example, you must be self-supporting, manage your own financial affairs, be at least 16 years of age, and live separately from the parent/guardian.
The petition must be filed in the county wherein the minor resides. Petitions must include the purpose of their emancipation, how it is in their best interest, the age and name of the minor, and the ages and names of the parents/guardians.
Natural emancipation usually occurs at 18, but emancipation can also occur due to marriages, or from enlisting in the military depending on what state you reside in. If you do not meet any of these requirements and you would like emancipation you can petition the court. Emancipation cases can be either filed by the minor themselves or their parent/guardian and they typically end up in family or probate court. Emancipation will only be granted by court order if it is in the minor’s best interest. If a minor is petitioning for emancipation they are required to notify the parent/guardian involved. If the parent/guardian objects to the request for emancipation then the court may hold a hearing wherein both sides will present evidence to defend their position. A Declaration of emancipation will be issued by the court if the petition is granted.
In order to decide whether to grant emancipation the judge will look at things such as a minor’s age, maturity level, physical health, and mental health. The judge will also review the parent’s/guardian’s ability to provide for their child and whether or not the parent/guardian has control over the child. Judges may also ask minors to demonstrate that they have lived independently, that they meet the age requirement, or any other requirements the states may have. Minors or Guardians may present lease agreements, report cards, work records, Etc. in order to back their argument. Both parties may call witnesses to the stand. Witnesses may testify to a minor’s ability to live independently and support themselves or potentially testify on behalf of the parent’s ability to provide for their child. Judges will likely ask the minors how emancipation will positively affect them and what goals they have for the future. Emancipation is very carefully considered by judges because it is often irreversible.
An alternative to the full emancipation of a minor is that they might qualify for partial emancipation. Partial emancipation will grant minors few rights and responsibilities. These rights could include the minor’s ability to choose where and how to live. This is less serious than full emancipation and could potentially be a more viable option.
Emancipation should be very carefully considered before petitioning the court. It must be in the child’s best interest in order for emancipation to be granted and parents/guardians typically can not petition for emancipation without the minor’s consent. In most cases, emancipation is not in the best interest of minors, but for some individuals, it may be necessary. If you are facing an emancipation case, contact a family law lawyer near you for help immediately.