Emancipation is the process of becoming a legal adult. Upon reaching the age of majority, an adolescent is automatically emancipated. A few other circumstances, such as marriage and enlisting in the United States military, also automatically emancipate a minor. Minors who face significant hardships that would be alleviated by becoming legal adults may pursue emancipation before reaching the age of majority by petitioning the court.
Among all the states in the U.S., Mississippi is unique by having the highest age of majority at 21. In most states, the age of majority is 18, and in a few, such as Nebraska, Alabama and Delaware, it is 19. In Mississippi, parents are required to financially support their children until age 21, but 18-year-olds in the state have many of the rights and privileges that come with adulthood.
Understanding Mississippi Emancipation
Mississippi does not have a minimum age for seeking emancipation. However, when considering an emancipation petition, the court looks closely at all the evidence the filer has provided to attest to her ability to provide for herself financially and to make productive decisions for herself. Although maturity and experience in making these kinds of decisions generally trumps chronological age, older teens tend to have more of this type of experience.
Although the age for Mississippi emancipation is officially 21, this only refers to emancipation from a parent's obligation to support their young adult financially. In Mississippi, individuals age 18 and older may vote, enter into legal contracts, take legal action against others and be sued for damages. Similarly, an individual age 18 or older who moves out of his parents’ home is not considered a runaway in Mississippi and is not legally required to return to the family home.
Mississippi does not impose a specific age requirement for minors to make their own medical decisions under most circumstances. One notable exception is abortion: In Mississippi, a minor cannot obtain an abortion without her parents’ consent to the procedure.
Read More: Divorce & Emancipation
Pursuing Court-Ordered Emancipation in Mississippi
An adolescent can pursue Mississippi emancipation, known legally as Removal of Disability of Minority, by filing a petition for emancipation with the county court that serves the county where he resides. In this petition, the filer states the reason why he is seeking emancipation and provides supporting documents to illustrate his case. These documents can include:
- Testimony from a mental healthcare professional discussing abuse-related trauma.
- Financial statements showing that the filer has an income and successfully manages his own money.
- Documentation showing he lives separate from his parents.
- Copies of the filer’s medical records.
Automatic Emancipation in Mississippi
Petitioning for emancipation is not always necessary in Mississippi. A young adult age 18 or older who drops out of high school, voluntarily leaves her parents’ home and supports herself financially or cohabits with another individual without her parents’ approval is automatically considered emancipated and thus, not her parents’ financial responsibility.
Joining the U.S. military and getting married also automatically emancipate minors, both of which require parental consent if done before reaching the age of majority. Although an individual may enlist in the U.S. armed forces without parental consent from age 18 and up in Mississippi, marriage is a bit different.
Permission to Marry in Mississippi
In Mississippi, any individual under age 21 must have parental permission to marry in the state. Girls may marry as young as 15, and boys as young as 17 in Mississippi with parental permission.
However, marriages performed outside of Mississippi for individuals under 21 who did not obtain parental permissions are valid in the state. For example, a pair of 20-year-olds from Mississippi may marry in California without parental permission, then return to their home state as a legally married couple.
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