A Teenager's Guide to Emancipation
disclaimer

THIS IS NOT A LEGAL DOCUMENT. This information is not written by a lawyer, a paralegal, or anyone associated in any way with a court, legal or government office. The law is different in each state. There are exceptions and special circumstances. Seek legal counsel to find out which emancipation laws and conditions apply. Do not use this document that you are reading now as your only guide for trying to get yourself emancipated from your parents.

Emancipation is a legal process that gives a teenager who is under 18 legal independence from his or her parents or guardians - the same legal independence he or she would acquire upon an 18th birthday and moving out of the home. It is something that can be granted only through proper state legal processes and by a court judge. Emancipation laws vary from state to state.

The age at which emancipation is possible varies by state. Some states grant emancipation for youth as young as 14. For others, the youth must be at least 16.

After the emancipation is final, the minor will be viewed as an adult in the eyes of the law, and will be held legally responsible for all of his or her actions, including debts and taxes.

Emancipation is not something to do because your parents do not understand you, because they do not pay attention to you, because you are unhappy, because you don't like your parents, etc. Emancipation is a legal tool that you may want to look into if:

  • Your parents have taken out loans and credit cards in your name, thereby ruining your credit and making you legally responsible for their debts
  • Your parents have taken money from you that you have earned or that has been given to you
  • Your parents have told you that you no longer may live with them
  • Your parents have told you that, for you to continue to live with them, you must engage in activities that go against your values or that would be profoundly degrading or humiliating
  • Conditions at your parents home are unsanitary or unsafe
  • Someone in your parents home has physically or emotionally abused you, or threatened such abuse
In many states, being granted emancipation by a judge may require you:
  • to bring forth evidence enough to convince the court that emancipation is in the best interests of you, or your parents, or your minor child (if you have one)
  • be living apart from your parents or guardian, or to be ready to do so immediately
  • be managing your own money
Emancipation may be granted if you are married, want to get married, are in the U.S. armed forces or about to join the armed forces. However, do NOT get married or join the U.S. armed forces in order to become emancipated!

Again - emancipation laws vary from state to state. These are general guidelines, but you will only know the correct process by investigating this information yourself.

  • Contact an attorney, a local government children's services office or a juvenile court office to obtain counsel. Often times, a minor is provided legal counsel at no charge in the case of emancipation.

  • Work with your legal counsel to prepare your petition for the right to be emancipated. Your reasons for emancipation must be verifiable for a judge to accept the petition and grant the request.

  • Provide written proof of your financial independence from parents or legal guardians. A minor must be able to prove a legal source of income. The judge may require the minor to prove medical insurance if he or she would lose such coverage from parents or guardians through emancipation.

  • Provide documentation that you are not living with parents or legal guardians, or documentation that shows where you will be living upon emancipation. In many cases, this living arrangement must be approved by the parents from whom you are seeking emancipation.

  • Keep attending school and prove that you will continue to do so, or, obtain your General Education Degree (GED).

  • If you have joined the U.S. military, have all of your paperwork detailing your enlistment

You must actively participate in this emancipation application process - no one can do the process entirely for you, not even a lawyer. Your ability to complete the emancipation process will demonstrate to the judge whether or not you are ready for emancipation.

Once you have filed and completed all the proper paperwork, a judge will review the petition and make a decision. You will probably have to attend court. Remember: after the emancipation is final, the minor will be viewed as an adult in the eyes of the law. If you are emancipated:

  • You are responsible for your own living arrangements. That probably means paying rent, obtaining furniture, etc.
  • You are responsible for obtaining medical care and to pay the bills or to arrange for financial help in paying them.
  • Your parents or guardians will have no obligation to support you financially, or give you any food, clothing, or shelter.
  • You may seek employment, join the military, get married, enroll in a school or college, or make other major life decisions without asking your parents. However, you will also have to pay taxes and any fees associated with these activities.
Think very carefully before you start the emancipation process. It is a tremendous amount of financial, legal and personal responsibility to take on.

Perhaps there are alternatives to emancipation. If you need some relief from family problems that do not threaten your safety or your well-being, could you stay with a friend or another family member for a few weeks or a few months? What about spending as much time as possible away from home, in a job (and making money so you can move out legally at 18, without any need for legal proceedings), in after-school activities, volunteering, studying and reading at the library, or in activities in a community of faith? Could your school guidance counselor, a parent of a friend or the leader in your community of faith (church, temple, mosque) talk to your parents and try to negotiate better living conditions until you are 18?

If you are a citizen of the USA or a legal permanent resident aliens here, look into AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps), a full-time, team-based residential program for men and women age 18-24. AmeriCorps NCCC members receive a living allowance of approximately $4,000 for the 10 months of service (about $200 every two weeks before taxes), housing, meals, limited medical benefits, up to $400 a month for childcare and an education award upon successful completion of the program. Members are assigned to one of five campuses, located in Denver, Colorado; Sacramento, California; Perry Point, Maryland; Vicksburg, Mississippi; and Vinton, Iowa. The mission of AmeriCorps NCCC is to strengthen communities and develop leaders through direct, team-based national and community service. In partnership with non-profits (secular and faith-based), local municipalities, state governments, federal government, national or state parks, Indian Tribes and schools members complete service projects throughout the region they are assigned. Members serve in teams of eight to 12 and are assigned to projects throughout the region served by their campus. They are trained in CPR, first aid, public safety, and other skills before beginning their first service project. If you are accepted into the program, you could use this experience to possibly get into college later, or to seek employment with the references and skills you gain from this experience.

Young people between 17 and 24 years old in the USA can serve a year in the CityYear program, as tutors, mentors and role models, helping children stay in school. To apply, you must be a USA citizen or legal permanent resident alien, and have a high school or diploma or GED, or be willing to earn a GED. A college degree or some college are great as well. You must be able to dedicate 10 months to full-time service and agree to a background or security check. Applicants may have served no more than three terms in another AmeriCorps, NCCC or VISTA program. Previous experiences with service, tutoring, mentoring and leadership help strengthen candidacy. If you are accepted into the program, you could use this experience to possibly get into college later, or to seek employment with the references and skills you gain from this experience.

The law is different in each state. There are exceptions and special circumstances that can affect your quest to be emancipated from your parents. Seek legal counsel to find out which emancipation laws and conditions apply. Do not use this document that you are reading now as your only guide for trying to get yourself emancipated from your parents.

If you live in Connecticut, see A Teenager's Guide to Emancipation.

Also, as an emancipated teen, you are going to have to pay taxes and file tax forms. This web page of information for teens regarding taxes, which includes a long list of links to other sites with information, is from a company that prepares taxes. It's one of the best curated lists anywhere of financial information for teens.

Also see

2010-2015 by Jayne Cravens, all rights reserved. No part of this material can be reproduced in print or in electronic form without express written permission by Jayne Cravens.

 



Book Recommendations
If you cannot afford to buy a book below that you want, most will be available, for free, at your local public library.


What Are My Rights?: Q&A About Teens and the Law (Revised and Updated Third Edition)


The Teen's Ultimate Guide to Making Money When You Can't Get a Job: 199 Ideas for Earning Cash on Your Own Terms


Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life


For Teenagers Living With a Parent Who Abuses Alcohol/Drugs


The Self-Esteem Workbook for Teens: Activities to Help You Build Confidence and Achieve Your Goals (Instant Help Book for Teens)


Paying for College Without Going Broke, 2015 Edition (College Admissions Guides)


Disclaimer
Any activity incurs risk. The author assumes no responsibility for the use of information contained within this document.