Typically, an adolescent is under his parents’ care and control until he turns 18. In some cases, though, it is in the adolescent’s best interest to become emancipated, granting him many of the legal rights enjoyed by adults. There are a variety of reasons why a teenager would want to become an emancipated minor in Maryland, such as to sign a lease on his own apartment, to leave an abusive household or to establish a trust to protect his assets.
Age of Majority in Maryland
In Maryland, like in much of the United States, the age of majority is 18. When an individual turns 18, she becomes a legal adult and may engage in the legal activities restricted to adults, like signing binding contracts and opening financial accounts. Emancipation age in Maryland is 15, which means that once an adolescent is 15 years old, she may pursue emancipation if she chooses.
In many states, a minor may only be fully emancipated, which means the minor is granted all the rights that come with emancipation for the rest of her life. However, this is not the case in Maryland. Once a minor reaches emancipation age in Maryland, though, she may pursue partial or complete emancipation. Complete emancipation is the same as emancipation in most other places: The minor’s parents are no longer required to provide for her, and she is granted the legal agency that emancipation entails.
Partial emancipation means the minor is emancipated only for a specific period of time or for a specific purpose. For example, a minor may be legally emancipated to sign a college loan or to make her own medical decisions, while remaining under her parents’ guardianship in all other circumstances.
Becoming an Emancipated Minor in Maryland
Once a teen reaches emancipation age in Maryland, he may take steps to become legally emancipated. In Maryland, this is not a clear-cut set of steps. In fact, a minor can be legally emancipated without any court intervention. This can happen when a minor’s parents request that the minor leave the household and support himself financially or if the minor leaves, becomes financially self-sufficient and chooses not to return to his parents’ home.
A minor emancipated through an informal arrangement like moving out of his parents’ home may draft an emancipation agreement and have the court approve it to officially emancipate him. Alternatively, the minor may begin the emancipation process in court with an adult or Child Protective Services acting on his behalf. In every emancipation case, the court rules according to what it deems to be in the minor’s best interest, which it determines by examining the facts presented.
Events that Trigger Emancipation
Some events trigger complete or partial emancipation automatically. When a minor marries or enlists in the United States military, he becomes completely emancipated. A pregnant minor has the legal autonomy to make her own decisions regarding prenatal care and terminating the pregnancy.
Similarly, any minor age 16 or older has the right to consent to mental healthcare diagnosis and treatment. However, a minor whose parent has already consented to mental healthcare treatment on his behalf cannot refuse this treatment.
Rights of an Emancipated Minor in Maryland
When a minor is fully emancipated in Maryland, she may:
- Apply for a job without a work permit.
- File a lawsuit.
- Be sued by another party.
- Enroll in school without parental consent.
An emancipated minor does not have all of the rights that come with reaching the age of majority in Maryland. One important right that no minor, emancipated or not, holds until age 18 is the right to vote. Similarly, an emancipated minor cannot buy a regulated firearm or purchase alcohol until reaching age 21 or drop out of high school until age 16.