There are many reasons why an adolescent may choose to file for emancipation in Indiana. These include wanting to escape an abusive home life, a teenager’s need to make critical medical decisions for herself and the desire to control the income she is generating from a burgeoning career. By becoming emancipated, a teenager severs all legal ties to her parents and becomes, in essence, a legal adult before actually reaching the age of 18.
In Indiana, there is no minimum age for a minor to pursue emancipation. Any adolescent who can completely support herself and make responsible decisions regarding her personal affairs may be emancipated by the court after filing a petition to do so. In Indiana, minors may be partially emancipated, meaning they can have some adult rights granted while remaining under their parents’ care, or they can be completely emancipated, granting them the legal agency that usually comes with adulthood.
Age of Majority in Indiana
The age of majority in Indiana is 18, just like it is in most other states. This means that when an individual reaches age 18, he is considered a legal adult and thus granted the rights and privileges that come with adulthood, like the right to make his own financial decisions and the right to sue others for damages.
Through emancipation, a minor can access some typically age-restricted rights and privileges before reaching the age of majority in Indiana. There are a few ways to achieve emancipation in Indiana. These are:
- Enlisting as an active-duty member of the United States military.
- Petitioning for emancipation through the court.
In Indiana, a 17-year-old may marry with parental consent, and younger teens can marry with parental consent and court permission to do so. Across the United States, individuals as young as 17 may enlist in the United States military with their parents’ consent to do so.
Rights and Privileges That Follow Emancipation
When a minor is emancipated, she obtains some of the legal rights that are usually restricted to adults. These rights include:
- The right to consent or object to medical treatment.
- The right to manage her own financial affairs.
- The right to work without a work permit.
- The right to choose her own school.
- The right to enter legally binding contracts.
- The right to take legal action against others.
An emancipated minor does not have all the rights that come with adulthood, though. Certain age-restricted privileges and rights, like buying alcoholic beverages or buying a handgun, remain off-limits to an emancipated minor until she reaches the age at which they are conferred.
Read More: Child Support & Emancipation Laws
Filing a Petition for Emancipation
Petitions for emancipation are filed with the court clerk of the county where the petitioner resides. Emancipations are handled at the county level, much like child custody and child support orders. Typically, a minor cannot file his own emancipation petition; he needs an adult to file the petition on his behalf. This adult could be one of his parents or a representative of Child Protective Services.
The court determines whether emancipation is in the filing minor’s best interest based on the documents he provides to support his petition. These documents should illustrate the reasons he provided for seeking emancipation, such as testimony from a mental healthcare provider discussing the teen’s abuse-related trauma or documents showing that the teen has significant financial assets that could potentially be taken or misused if he cannot control them himself. The documents should also show that the teen is capable of making his own decisions and has been supporting himself financially and otherwise. Documents that can support a petition for emancipation include:
- Copies of the filer’s medical records.
- Documentation of the filer’s financial and other assets.
- Records showing the filer owns or leases his own home.
- Documentation showing the filer has his own income.
- Testimonies and documents that support the filer’s claim that remaining under his parent’s care and control is not in his best interest.
After the petition is filed, the court sets a hearing date. At this hearing, the minor’s parents may appear in court and provide their arguments against the emancipation if they oppose it. After hearing both sides’ positions, the court rules on the case and either emancipates the minor according to his petition or denies the emancipation.