Many teens dream of getting out from under their parents wings earlier than the law allows. Emancipation is the term used when you do it legally. If you are emancipated, your parents can't make your decisions for you, but it also means they don't have to support you.
Parental Duties and Authority
Parents are legally responsible to support their minor children financially, providing a roof over their heads and food to eat. In exchange, the law gives them authority to make many decisions for their children, like where to live, which schools to attend and what medical care they should receive. Minority ends at different ages in different states, most often when a child turns 18 or 19.
Emancipation Means Independence
An emancipated child assumes the duties and responsibilities of an adult. She lives away from her family and supports herself financially. In return, she gets to do the things that you generally have to be older to do. For example, an emancipated minor can enter into a legal contract, sue somebody in court and decide how to spend her own money. On the other hand, she still has to wait to attain the legal age to drink, drive and vote.
Marriage or Military
You can become emancipated if you get married or join the military, but each is tricky. To be emancipated from your parents by marriage, your marriage has to be legal. In many states, a minor can only marry with her parents' permission, so if your parents oppose the marriage, the emancipation is also dead in the water. Similarly, military rules prevent most teens from attaining early emancipation, since you usually must have a high school diploma or GED to enlist. That means that you are likely pretty close to 18 years old anyway.
Petitioning the Court
You can petition the court for an order of emancipation if you are old enough under your state's laws. California allows minors as young as 14 to petition, but most states require that you be 16 years or older. You need to research and follow your state's procedure, but, generally, you file a petition outlining your circumstances, where you are living and how you are now or will soon be financially independent. In many states you must give your parents notice of the petition. The court often schedules a hearing at which the judge asks you questions to determine if emancipation is in your best interests.
Going It Alone
Filing the emancipation papers is easier with an attorney doing the work, but it's not unreasonable to attempt the procedure on your own, especially if your parents support you in the effort. Visit your local family court for forms and instructions, or find them on the court's website. The most important part is being able to show that you have a safe place to live and a reliable source of income independent of your family.
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