When a minor pursues emancipation in New Mexico, she must demonstrate that emancipation is in her best interest. This means showing the court that she can manage her own finances responsibly and that she is mature enough to make potentially life-altering decisions, like consenting to medical care.
In New Mexico, there are a few avenues a minor can take to become legally emancipated: marriage, enlistment in the U.S. military or by a court order. When a minor marries or enters the U.S. military with parental permission to do so, she is automatically emancipated. This means she gains most of the legal rights and privileges typically reserved for individuals over age 18.
If the minor chooses to pursue emancipation through the court, the process is a bit more complicated. The minor must file a petition for emancipation with the children’s court that serves the region where she lives and successfully demonstrate that emancipation is in her best interest.
Qualifying for Emancipation in New Mexico
To qualify for emancipation in New Mexico, a minor must be at least 16 years old. This is the only objective qualifying point for minors considering emancipation in New Mexico. This does not mean that any 16-year-old who files an emancipation petition will have the petition approved, but that if a minor who is under age 16 files a petition to be emancipated, it will be rejected.
Once a minor submits a petition for emancipation to the court, the court is tasked with examining the case and determining whether emancipation is in his best interest. Beyond being at least 16, the two most important qualifying points for emancipation are:
- The minor has been living separate and apart from his parents or guardians.
- The minor is currently managing his own finances responsibly.
Reasons for Emancipation in New Mexico
There are a variety of reasons why a minor might choose to pursue emancipation in New Mexico, including:
- The desire to start an independent career.
- The need to leave an abusive household.
- The need to make medical decisions that can impact his life.
- The need to protect his financial assets from relatives and others.
Rights Afforded With Emancipation
When a minor is emancipated, she is granted certain rights and privileges, such as:
- The right to consent to medical, dental and psychiatric care without parental knowledge or consent.
- The right to refuse medical, dental or psychiatric care without parental knowledge or consent.
- The right to enter legally binding contracts.
- The right to work without a work permit and keep all of her earnings.
- The right to enroll in the school of her choosing.
- The right to establish her own residence.
- The right to take legal action and to be sued by others.
- The right to buy and sell real estate.
Emancipation ends a parent’s legal obligation to support his child. This includes the parent's obligation to house her, provide sustenance and medical care and even the obligation to provide emotional support.
Emancipation does not make a child a legal adult. Certain age-restricted rights and privileges remain age-restricted to emancipated minors. These include:
- The right to vote.
- The right to buy alcohol.
- The right to buy tobacco products.
Demonstrating That Emancipation Is in a Child’s Best Interest
In any scenario where a child seeks emancipation in New Mexico, the court will approve his petition only if he successfully demonstrates that emancipation is in his best interest. To do this, he must provide clear evidence that:
- He is of sound mind to make his own legal decisions.
- He has the capacity to manage his own finances.
- He is mature enough to understand the gravity of emancipation.
Some documents that can support the minor’s case include commentary from a representative of Child Protective Services; copies of his medical records showing the condition he faces and his potential treatment options; documentation showing the minor’s assets and how he has handled them on his own; and a copy of the minor’s lease agreement.
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