How to Become an Emancipated Minor
In California, an emancipated minor is a person under the age of eighteen who has legally freed himself or herself from the legal and physical custody and control of his or her parents, or guardian, through one of three different methods, and is thereafter considered legally responsible for his or her legal decisions and actions, that were otherwise reserved for parents or adults. The term “minor” means a person under the age of eighteen.
Emancipating a minor by three different methods:
There are three different methods by which a minor is emancipated:
- Military enlistment with parental consent,
- Marriage with parental consent, or
- Declaration of emancipation granted by a judge.
Military Enlistment: A minor who enlists in the military with parental consent is automatically legally emancipated. If the minor is discharged from the military while still a minor the minor’s emancipation is rescinded.
Marriage: A minor who marries with parental consent is automatically legally emancipated. A minor who is emancipated by marriage remains emancipated even if the minor obtains a divorce or legal separation from his or her spouse. Also, a spouse married to a minor with the minor’s parental consent is legally entitled to engage in sexual intercourse with his or her spouse without violating California statutory rape laws. There is no legal minimum age to marry with parental consent in California.
Judicial Emancipation: A judge may grant a minor emancipated status with a declaration of emancipation (judicial emancipation) if the minor proves four requirements for judicial emancipation:
Four Requirements for Judicial Emancipation:
The four requirements that a minor must hurdle in order to obtain a declaration of emancipation are:
- The minor is not living at his or her parent’s home
- The minor has legal means to support for himself or herself
- The minor is at least fourteen years old
- Emancipation is in the minor’s best interest
Note: What is considered to be in the best interest of the minor depends on many factors and every circumstance is different. For example, it may be in the minor’s best interest to emancipate himself or herself when his or her parents are not fulfilling their parental responsibilities or they are mismanaging the minor’s finances or assets, etc.
Rights of an Emancipated Minor:
An emancipated minor has most of the rights and responsibilities of being an adult, including: a right to obtain medical insurance and care without parental consent, a right to make legal decisions and sign binding contracts, a right to sign up for college, a right to be free from parental custody and control, a right to work and keep earnings, a right to control his or her estate planning (wills, trusts, power of attorney), a right to take an interest in a corporation (stock, proxy vote, trade, own, etc), and more.
Responsibilities of emancipated minors:
An emancipated minor is responsible for his or her own actions, including paying his or her own bills, providing for his or her own care, and more.
An emancipated minor must attend school until at least sixteen years of age in California, may not work full-time, may not marry without parental consent [However, a minor’s marriage with parental consent automatically emancipates the minor [See Emancipation by Marriage], may not engage in sexual intercourse (See exception at Emancipation by Marriage), may not vote or drink alcohol, may not driver until the age of sixteen, and more.
Note: An emancipated minor who commits a crime will be adjudicated in juvenile delinquency court, not adult court, unless the juvenile delinquency court transfers the minor’s criminal case to adult court (See Prop 57 for further information).
Granting a Declaration of Emancipation:
If a minor meets the four requirements for judicial emancipation he or she may request a declaration of emancipation from a judge. To make a request for a declaration of emancipation the minor must file and serve the necessary emancipation forms on all the proper parties, attend a court hearing, and take steps to finalize the emancipation (if granted).
Note: Minors who are considered wards of the state must file any request for emancipation in juvenile dependency court.
Preparing emancipation forms, filing, serving, and presentation of argument in court should be handled by an experienced emancipation attorney. If a minor cannot afford an emancipation attorney he or she might find useful direction in the following emancipation forms.
Caution: Legal forms by themselves do not provide information on drafting declarations, presentation of evidence, obtaining discovery (evidence), following court rules and legal procedure (especially legal deadlines), legal research, and what to avoid. If possible, always enlist the services of a family law attorney experienced in the area of emancipating a minor.
Note: Notice must be given to the minor’s parents in emancipation cases, unless the court finds good cause to waive the notice requirement or the minor’s parents cannot be located. Also, parents have the right to object to the minor’s emancipation request. (See Fathers’ Rights for more on both fathers’ and mothers’ rights in general).
Voiding a Minor's Judicial Emancipation:
Emancipation is intended to be permanent. However, a judge may void the declaration of emancipation if the judge finds that the minor purposefully made false statements or relevant omissions on his or her petition for emancipation, or, if the minor becomes unable to support himself or herself after being declared emancipated. This does not apply to emancipation by military enlistment or by marriage (See above].
If a court terminates the emancipation status of a minor the minor’s parents or guardians will retake legal custody of the minor (but not necessarily physical custody of the minor). (See Child Custody for a discussion on the difference between legal and physical custody of a child).
Note: Voiding (terminating) the declaration of emancipation does not void any contract obligation, or property right, that was acquired or became effective during the period of emancipation.
Parental Obligations after Emancipation:
After a minor becomes legally emancipated the minor’s parents are no longer financially responsible for the minor. Therefore, a parent may file a request to terminate previous child support orders (See Child Support & Modifying Court Orders). Also, Parents are no longer vicariously liable for the civil wrongs (torts) of their emancipated children.
Note: In rare situations, a judge may order the payment of child support for a minor who is emancipated if the minor reasonably and detrimentally relied on a parent’s promise to continue support once the emancipation was completed.
For more information on how to emancipate a minor contact our divorce and family law attorneys today for a free consultation. Thank you.