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How Does Emancipation of a Minor Work?

Emancipation occurs when an individual who has reached the age of majority under applicable law has the right to become independent of his or her parents' control. Emancipation also refers to the legal process during which a minor may petition the court to become legally responsible for him or herself. Parents and children may both petition for the minor to become emancipated.


State laws vary on the specific requirements and processes for emancipation. This usually occurs on the age limit for majority. If a party interested in pursuing emancipation cannot afford a private attorney, a court-appointed attorney or mediator may be able to provide assistance.

Court filing and appearance is not required for emancipation. There are instances when the parent and child can come to an agreement that they should live apart. The parent may not oppose the minor moving out of the home and becoming self-sufficient. Alternatively, a parent may request a child to leave the home. Informal consent may be all that is needed for emancipation to occur short of court involvement. Parental consent is not required if a child has reached the age or majority or if parents have been found guilty of misconduct by the court with respect to the child.


When a court receives a petition for emancipation from a minor, it considers these factors:

  • Is the minor at least 16 years old? (or whatever the age of majority is)
  • Is the minor living away from home, but the minor's parents are receiving government benefit payments because of the minor?
  • Are the minor's parents abusive?
  • Does the minor need to be placed in a safe environment away from the parents?
  • Does the minor want to receive welfare benefits or Medicare payments?
  • Is the minor pregnant?
  • If the minor is pregnant, does the minor want to wed?

When a court receives a petition for emancipation from a parent(s), it considers these factors:

  • Is the parent, as the legal guardian of the minor, desirous of the minor having the liberty to make legal decisions for him or herself?
  • Does the parent want the minor to live separate and apart from the parent?
  • Does the parent desire to no longer be responsible for the minor's care and welfare?
  • Does the parent no longer want to be deemed legally responsible for the minor's actions?

In situations of parental abuse or neglect, the court looks at emancipation petitions differently. The court requires organized, clearly presented, and concise evidence in such cases to demonstrate the following criteria:

  • how, when, and where the minor abandoned by the parent
  • evidence that the parent abused the minor physically or mentally
  • sworn witness testimony
  • testimony or a written statement that the parents are not willing to care for the minor