In most of the United States, the age of majority is 18. This means that upon turning 18, an adolescent is considered a legal adult and granted most of the rights and privileges enjoyed by adults, with a few notable exceptions, like the right to purchase alcoholic beverages and the right to purchase a firearm in many states. In Alabama, however, the age of majority is not 18, but 19. To be eligible for emancipation in Alabama a teenager must be 18 to petition for legal emancipation. However, not all emancipation petitions are approved.
In order to become a legal adult at age 18 in Alabama, an adolescent must demonstrate to the court that he is capable of making his own decisions and managing his own affairs.
Understanding Emancipation Laws in Alabama
Emancipation laws in Alabama are different from emancipation laws in most of the United States primarily because the standard age of majority in Alabama is 19, rather than 18. Only two other states, Delaware and Nebraska, set 19 as the age of majority.
In addition to the emancipation laws in Alabama that differ from those in many other states, the rights that younger minors hold in Alabama differ as well. One such difference is that a minor as young as 14 may consent to or refuse medical treatment, a right that is restricted to older minors in some states and to legal adults in others. Similarly, a minor as young as 15 may enter into an insurance contract in Alabama, which is not the case in many other states. Alabama minors aged 16 and 17 may get married with parental consent, and 18-year-olds may marry without parental consent.
The emancipation laws in Alabama state that if a minor has a living, mentally stable parent or guardian, that parent or guardian must be the one to file the emancipation petition. Generally, these petitions are approved. If the minor does not have at least one living, mentally stable parent or guardian who has not abandoned her, she may file the petition on her own. If she has a guardian, but no mentally sound parent in her life, the minor and the guardian must file her emancipation petition together.
Petitioning for Emancipation in Alabama
After reaching eligibility for emancipation age in Alabama, an 18-year-old may file a petition to pursue emancipation. This petition is filed with the clerk of the court in the county where the minor’s parent or legal guardian resides. Under Alabama emancipation laws, emancipation is officially known as Relief From the Disabilities of Nonage.
After a petition for emancipation is filed, the court publishes notice of it in the local newspaper or any other publishing manner the judge deems appropriate. Upon seeing this notification, any interested party may contest the emancipation and provide proof of her financial ability to support the minor.
Upon receiving the petition, the court sets a hearing date for the case. During this hearing, the minor and/or the adult who filed the petition may provide documents showing that emancipation is in the minor’s best interest, such as documentation of the minor’s developing independent career. If the court deems emancipation to be in the minor’s best interest, it approves the petition and the minor is legally emancipated.
Rights Emancipation Grants and Does Not Grant
When a minor is emancipated, she receives some of the rights generally restricted to adults. These rights include:
- The right to choose her own school.
- The right to buy and sell real estate.
- The right to enter legally binding contracts.
- The right to sue others.
Being emancipated does not grant a minor all the rights of adulthood, though. Although 18-year-old minors in Alabama may vote just like other 18-year-olds across the nation, an emancipated 18-year-old in Alabama cannot purchase alcoholic beverages or purchase a handgun, as these actions are restricted to individuals age 21 and over.
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