The legal term for a minor gaining the rights and responsibilities of an adult is emancipation, which is automatically granted in the state of Florida to a person when she reaches the age of 18 or marries. If you want to be emancipated while still a minor, you'll need to follow a series of steps to petition the court for that right. While emancipation does not grant a minor the right to drink and vote, emancipated minors may act as adults in a legal capacity and manage their own finances and other affairs, as well as other things deemed appropriate by Florida law.
Complete the proper documents needed to obtain a court order for emancipation. These documents include a Petition for Emancipation of a Minor, which must be completed by a parent or guardian or by a court-appointed guardian. This document must show the court that the minor is able to support himself, that the minor is not dependent on certain public benefits and the reasons as to why the minor is seeking emancipation. In essence, the Petition for Emancipation of a Minor must show that emancipation is in the minor’s best interest.
- Ensure that the Petition for Emancipation, as well as all other documents needed to obtain a court order, is signed by both parents. If one parent isn't actively involved in the petitioning process, a deputy will be sent out to serve a summons and a copy of the petition once it's prepared. It remains the parent's responsibility to comply.
- File a Motion for Default with the clerk of court, should a non-petitioning parent refuse to respond to the summons. A non-petitioning parent has 20 days from the date of the summons to respond and contest the petition, otherwise it is granted "by default." While a court-appointed attorney will be provided if necessary to oversee court proceedings, you may want to hire an attorney to file these documents on your behalf.
- Ensure that all documents, including the Petition for Emancipation of a Minor, all summonses, and Motions for Default, as well as any other legal documents, are included in the court order for emancipation. Ensure that they are signed by the proper officials.
- Attend the Motion for Hearing. This motion will be filed by your attorney and scheduled by the court. Make sure you have all your documents and that you’re on time and well-dressed. Should the judge feel that emancipation is in your best interest, as the minor, the judge will enter and order authorizing emancipation. This order will be recorded in the public records of the county in which it is filed.
After You're Emancipated
Obtain certified copies of the emancipation order so that you may prove your emancipation when necessary. You will need to pay fees for filing certain forms, as well as for obtaining certified copies of the forms, to the clerk of court. These fees will vary depending on the county in which you are filing.