From Minor To Major: Are You Ready To File For Emancipation?

If you're a teenager who still needs your parents' approval for things like medical care and school applications, you could be wishing for the ability to make decisions independently of your parents. Legally, there is a way to make that happen; it's called emancipation. However, while living on your own away from the ties to your parents may sound like a dream come true to many a teen, you should know that emancipation is a drastic measure and the courts do not take emancipation petitions lightly. You need to prove you are ready and that you have circumstances which make emancipation a better option than remaining under parental care. 

Financial Readiness

The first thing you will need to prove is that you are financially ready to care for yourself. The cost of sustaining yourself in the world of adulthood is higher than most teens imagine. The courts will take these financial obligations into consideration before granting emancipation:

  • health care and insurance. One of the perks you enjoy as a minor is that you can rely on your parent's health care program. If you are legally separated from them, these are services they will no longer be obligated to provide. Will you have a job that provides medical benefits? Will your income be high enough for you to support an insurance payment each month?
  • living expenses. Rent and furnishings for an apartment are one of the major costs you will need to take on. With rent, however, comes the cost of things like utilities, internet, and even parking if you live in a city. You'll also need to budget for your own food and clothing and pay for your school supplies and school fees. 
  • transportation. Can you afford your own vehicle, gas, and car insurance?

Increased Responsibility

As a minor, you have protections under the law. For example, under normal circumstances you could not be sued for liability and you have lighter sentencing for any criminal activity. If you are declared independent as an adult, these protections are lifted. You could be sued, charged as an adult for things like assault, and evicted from your apartment for breach of contract. 

Situational Preparedness

Even if you have a poor relationship with your parents, this is not enough to convince a judge that you are ready to be free from their influence. Some general guidelines that help determine if you are in the right situation include:

  • if you're living away from your parents already and have been for some time. For example, if you've been living with an aunt, a friend, or grandparents instead of at home, this helps to show that you already do not rely on your parents to meet your needs. 
  • your employment. Do you have a significant inheritance that allows you to continue with school without working? Do you have a steady job that pays well, or some other large income that allows you financial freedom from your family? Typically, teenagers depend on parents for financial well-being; when this is not the case, emancipation make more sense to a judge, especially if you want to protect your own assets.
  • your schooling. If you're very intelligent and moving faster than your peers, you can graduate early and need the ability to make adult decisions sooner. Those who attend college at age 16 need to be able to sign without the presence of their parents. If you're quite young and already graduated, it makes more sense to the court to permit a minor to have adult privileges. 

If your parents are abusive or neglectful, but you are not able to be financially independent, you can explore other avenues. For example, you can live with a relative or have another adult named as your legal guardian through Child Protective Services. For more information on how you can resolve a poor home situation or seek independence, contact a family lawyer or visit