What does emancipation mean?
Emancipation is a process that gives a 16 or 17 year old the legal status of an adult for many purposes. An emancipated teenager has the legal right to do some, but not all, things that an adult can do. If you are emancipated, you still cannot buy or drink alcohol or use tobacco. If you are emancipated, you no longer have to do what your parents or guardian say, but you also lose some benefits of being a minor, such as the right to parental support.
Are there benefits of being a minor?
Yes. If you are a minor, your parents or guardians have a legal duty to provide basic necessities including food, shelter, clothing, education, and medical care. Your parent or guardian can also consent to and help you do certain things that you could not legally do on your own. You cannot sign a contract or a lease on your own, but you could have a valid contract or lease if your parent or guardian is willing to co-sign and accept responsibility. You might not be able to open a bank account on your own, but you could do so with a parent’s help. However, there are some things, such as getting a tattoo, that minor cannot do, even if a parent gives consent.
What would be different if I became emancipated?
If you are emancipated, your parents or guardians no longer have any authority to tell you what do to do. They also have no legal responsibility to pay for any of your basic necessities. This means that you would be fully responsible to pay for your food, rent, medical care, and education. You would also have the right to:
- sue and be sued in court;
- sign contracts and be responsible for them;
- choose where to live on your own;
- get a driver’s license;
- manage money and property, including paying debts and taxes;
- get medical and dental
However, even if you are emancipated, until you reach the legal age, you cannot:
- buy and use tobacco or alcohol;
- serve on a jury;
- buy or possess a
What is the process to become emancipated?
Either you or your legal custodian must go to court and ask a judge to approve the emancipation. To qualify for emancipation, you must be:
- 16 or 17 years old;
- living separate and apart from your parents or guardian;
- capable of supporting yourself;
- capable of managing your own
You should be aware that these conditions are not easily met. Emancipation is rarely granted. You have to prove that you are financially self-sufficient and can manage your own affairs. Working the counter at a fast food place or bagging groceries will probably not convince the court.
If the court does approve your request, the emancipation may be for all purposes, or for a limited set of purposes. The terms of the emancipation will be spelled out in the court’s order.
Getting married is another way to become emancipated. For more information, view the Emancipation Guide.