The Plan: Emancipation by a Minor Teen

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Apr 23, 2012

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The law that surrounds that ability of a teenager to emancipate themselves from their parents differs from state to state. Emancipation in some states can occur with the happening of an event, like enlisting in the military or pregnancy and childbirth. The age at which a teenager may apply to the court can also vary. Some states do not allow emancipation at all. In the states that allow a teenager to bring an action for emancipation the courts appear to look at the same set of factors, some of which are listed below, to determine if a teenager is entitled to emancipate him or herself. Something, though, that is important to remember is that even if you live in a state that does allow emancipation, and you are successful obtaining emancipation from your parents, emancipation does not occur in all aspects of your life. It does not give you the “rights” of adulthood – such as the ability to drink alcohol or to vote in an election – that are governed by statute in the state. A judge’s determination as to emancipation does not override these state laws.

Generally you have to file what is known as a Petition in Court for a hearing before a judge. Some states provide for an attorney to be appointed on your behalf, free of charge, for the proceeding. Notice is given to your parents or guardian of your intention to emancipate yourself. Then a hearing is held where all necessary parties are present and a judge hears testimony before making a decision. As stated, the judge looks at various factors in deciding whether or not to grant your request. Generally, they look to see if you have a “plan” of sorts, and the factors necessary to support the plan. These factors include, but are not limited to the following:

Do you have a place to live? Do you have the means (, a job, other source of financial support) to help with providing the necessities (food, clothing shelter)? Can you provide for health services (health care)? Are you involved with, or have a relationship established with, any agencies that can help you with the support you need?

The plan has to be fully thought out to cover the necessities of life. Emancipation and living the life of an adult is not easy, and should not be considered lightly or for frivolous reasons, for instance because you think that your parents are too strict. It may be a good idea to get some counseling before filing the Petition.

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