About Emancipation Laws for Minors

By Evalla
About Emancipation Laws for Minors

Parents are required to take care of their children by providing them with a safe home, solid education and healthy lifestyle until the legal age of maturity. However, there are certain states that allow a child to claim control of their own well-being before that time through emancipation.


Emancipation laws have been in place since the 1800s and were used to free slaves from the control of their owners. Those laws eventually evolved to include minors. Before 1973, many states had the legal age of majority at 21, which resulted in more frequent requests for emancipation by minors. But once most states switched to 18 as the standard age of adulthood, those rates decreased.


Otherwise known as "divorcing" one's parents, emancipation laws vary by state and are extremely difficult to acquire. The biggest hurdle for minors is proving they can act in their best interest more effectively than their guardians can. If a minor can prove this, his or her guardian will no longer have control over issues such as finances and education. Many child celebrities, such as Alicia Silverstone, Jena Malone and Michelle Williams, petitioned and were granted emancipation from their parents.


Each state has its own conditions for granting emancipation. Many states, such as New York and Pennsylvania, won't grant emancipated minors more additional rights than unemancipated minors receive, except concerning individual control over property, finances and residency. Some states also require the minor to be living in a separate residence after requesting emancipation, though that requires parental consent in order to avoid being classified as a runaway.


If a person is married, an active member of the military or a high school graduate, guardians will no longer have legal control over his affairs regardless of age. However, getting married is an example where parental consent is needed if the two parties are under 18 years old. But the most important factor in granting emancipation is if the minor is capable of financially supporting himself in a matter the court deems sufficient. That can be the biggest challenge to overcome in the process.


Even if a minor is granted emancipation, she is still not allowed to partake in adult activities with a legally enforced age limit. For example, a child under 21 cannot purchase or drink alcohol regardless of emancipation status, and voting and marriage are also prohibited until the child turns 18 years old. And most states won't let any child under the age of 16 petition for emancipation, though California will consider it for those 14 and older.

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I'm an editor and writer currently based in New York with expertise in environmental, lifestyle and travel content.