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Frequently Asked Questions About Emancipation

Q: What Is an “Emancipated Minor?”

An emancipated minor is an individual under the age of 18 who a court deemed to be capable of enjoying similar rights and privileges as adults. As a result, the civil disabilities that restrict unemancipated minors are lifted for emancipated minors. However, the certain legal protections afforded to minors are also removed as a consequence of emancipation.

Q: What Is a Civil Disability?

A civil disability prevents someone from exercising certain civil rights. Minor children are generally considered to lack the capacity to enter into a binding contractual agreement. Public policy generally considers individuals under 18 years old to lack the maturity and judgment necessary to hold them responsible for their actions. As a result, children are subject to several civil disabilities to prevent them from committing any lasting wrongs. On the flipside, minor children won’t be held civilly liable for many of the harms they cause.

Q: What Rights Do Emancipated Minors Obtain?

Emancipation removes the several civil disabilities for the emancipated minor, allowing them to exercise the following rights:

  • Choosing their own place of residence
  • Enter into binding contracts
  • Keep your own earnings
  • Buy, sell, lease, or transfer property
  • Obtain a work permit without parental consent
  • Enroll yourself in school
  • File a lawsuit against someone on your behalf
  • Prepare a valid will
  • Consent to your own medical, dental, and psychiatric care
  • Stay out past curfew for minors

However, the following restrictions still apply to emancipated minors, regardless of their emancipated status:

  • You must attend school until your graduate or turn 18
  • Must adhere to work hour restricts for child labor laws and work permit regualtions
  • No sex unless you are emancipated through marriage, but only with your spouse
  • You may not purchase or drink alcohol until you turn 21
  • You may not vote until you turn 18

Q: How Do I Get an Emancipation?

Emancipation is a legal status that requires a judicial order. Emancipation can occur automatically by operation of law, or you can request the court to declare you to be emancipated.

An individual under 18 qualifies as emancipated under the following circumstances:

  • Was legally married or in a domestic partnership, regardless of whether the marriage was or partnership was ultimately dissolved;
  • Is an active duty member of the U.S. armed forces; or
  • Was declared emancipated by the court

This requires the individual seeking emancipation to file a petition with the court, schedule a hearing date, and serve notice on the required parties. The court will determine if you are legally eligible to be declared emancipated by the court.

To be declared emancipated, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You must be at least 14 years old;
  • You willing lives apart from their parents or guardian with their consent;
  • You can and are managing their own finances;
  • You do not derive their income from a criminal act under California or U.S. law.

Q: Why Would a Minor File for Emancipation?

A minor may want to file for emancipation for various reasons. Many minors file for emancipation because they have already proven their responsibility when it comes to managing their own financial affairs and taking care of themselves or other members of their family. A minor may want to escape the control of an unfit parent. Or a parent may want to provide more opportunities for a child with exceptional ability and maturity.

Q: Do I Need a Lawyer to Be Emancipated?

Emancipation can be a complex legal issue, involving many parties including the minor’s parents or guardian, the prospective spouse of a minor, or other siblings or relatives with whom the minor may already be caring for. As a result, it is highly recommended that you consult an attorney to discuss your goals and intentions. At Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich, we have experience representing California residents in a variety of family law issues, including matters affecting juveniles and parental rights.

For answers to more questions, call us at (951) 506-6654 or contact us online today.


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