Step-by-step instructions on becoming an emancipated minor

If you’re under 18 and already living apart from your parents (or want to live separately from them), you might be considering emancipation. This process gives you the legal right to care for and advocate for yourself without your parents’ permission so you can support yourself and live your own life. The emancipation process may vary slightly from state to state, but the process is, for the most part, very similar. Keep reading to learn what you need to do to get emancipated as a teen and what to expect from the process.

Things You Should Know

  • Start the process by filling out a Petition for Emancipation, either on your own or with your parents.
  • Go to a preliminary meeting with a judge to prove you can support yourself financially by showing proof of income.
  • Attend a court hearing and prove that your parents are no longer financially supporting you.
Section 1 of 6:

Getting Emancipated

  1. In most jurisdictions, either you or your parents can file a petition for your emancipation, with or without the assistance of a lawyer. Contact the Circuit Court in your jurisdiction and ask for a petition, then fill it out along with any other forms you are required to provide. This could include:
    • Writing an affidavit to the petition, which is a description of your reasons for filing it.
    • Writing a financial statement describing your personal financial situation.
    • Getting a verification of employment from your job, to ensure you can pay your bills.
    • Getting an affidavit, or description, from either your parents or an adult who knows you personally and believes emancipation to be in your best interest. This could include your physician, social worker, psychologist, teacher, school counselor, school administrator, or minister.
  2. When you have the paperwork filled out, return it to the Circuit Court and pay the filing fee to file the petition. Filing fees vary from state to state, but are generally between $150 and $200.
    • Filing fees are required whether or not a judge grants your emancipation.
    • If you cannot pay the filing fee, ask for a fee waiver form from court staff when you turn in your paperwork.
  3. After your paperwork has been processed, you'll receive a date for a preliminary that you must attend, with or without a lawyer. Your parents or guardian will be given notice that they may also attend if they want to.[1]
    • If you have enough money, hire a lawyer to speed and help improve your chances of getting emancipated. Search for a family lawyer who has experience in emancipation so they can guide you through the process.
    • The court will make sure that you have a job to support yourself financially.
    • Your parents or guardian will have the chance to object to your petition if they wish, and explain their reasons for doing so.
    • In some cases, an investigation will be conducted. If your parents or guardian are found to be providing an acceptable home, and do not wish for you to be emancipated, your petition may be rejected.
    • If the evidence presented is found to be true, your case will move forward, and a court hearing will be scheduled.
  4. At the court hearing, you as the minor are responsible for proving that your parents either approve of emancipation or aren't supporting you, that you have the ability to manage your financial and social affairs, and that you understand your rights and responsibilities. To do this, explain your situation clearly, and offer up copies of the paperwork you gathered for your petition earlier. If you are able to provide proof that is acceptable to the Court, emancipation will be granted, and will be kept on file with the Court until you are 25.
    • If you or your parents object to the decision, either to grant you emancipation or not, you may file an appeal with the Court of Appeals.
  5. Once you have gained emancipation, you are responsible for living entirely without the help of other adults. You are no longer legally required to rely on your parents for assistance, so it's important to do well at your job and keep up with your bills to create a stable life on your own.[2]
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Section 3 of 6:

Who can be emancipated?

  1. In most states, you must be at least 16 years old in order to become emancipated. In some states, however, that age is lowered to 14 years old. Look up your specific state laws before starting the emancipation process.[4]
  2. If you are already financially independent and have been managing your own money as well as living apart from your parents, a judge is very likely to emancipate you. You must prove to the court that you have a stable income and are managing your money wisely without any help from your parents or guardians.
    • There are many reasons why you might be living apart from your parents or guardians, including: your parents or guardians have told you that you cannot live with them, your parents or guardians are physically or sexually abusive, the situation at your parents' or guardian's home is morally repugnant to you, or your parents or guardians have stolen your money.
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Section 4 of 6:

Automatic Emancipation

  1. If you are already legally married and you want to have the same rights as an adult, you can file for emancipation. In this case, you can be emancipated easily with parental consent and permission from the court.[5]
  2. If you enroll in the armed forces before you’re 18, your state may emancipate you. This depends on your state’s laws and whether or not your parents or guardians are still financially supporting you after you enlist.[6]
    • If you are already emancipated and at least 17 years old, you can enlist in the armed forces without your parent’s permission.
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Section 5 of 6:

What rights does an emancipated person have?

  1. If you’re looking into emancipation, you may already be living separately from your parents or guardians. Once you’re emancipated, you can rent or buy a home to live in on your own. Keep in mind that you will be responsible for all of the bills, including rent, utilities, and other living costs.
  2. When you’re underage, your parents may be able to access your medical information, including your medical records. After you become emancipated, you have full access to your medical care without having to notify your parents.
    • States vary on whether or not you can keep your parent’s medical insurance after emancipation. If your medical insurance specifies that you must be a dependent (or reliant on your parents), then you won’t be able to stay on your parent’s insurance.
  3. Typically, underage people cannot buy or sell their own property. Once you become emancipated, you’re free to purchase and sell any property that you can afford.
  4. When you’re underage, you need to have your parent’s permission to register your car or get a driver’s license. When you’re emancipated, you can do these things on your own.
    • You can also request a certified copy of your own birth certificate without your parents’ permission.
  5. Before you’re 18, you would need your parents’ signature to sign up for a different school or enroll in college classes. Now, though, you can do it by yourself.
  6. drink, vote, or stop going to school. Emancipation gives you many rights, but not all the rights of an adult. You cannot drink, vote, or stop going to school, even after you’re emancipated.[7]
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Section 6 of 6:

Deciding to Become Emancipated

  1. It’s not easy to take on the legal rights and responsibilities of an adult at an early age. Many teenagers don't have the resources to pay for rent, clothes, and groceries without assistance, and a judge won't grant emancipation unless you show you can take care of yourself. In addition, gaining emancipation can cause a permanent rift in a family, and should only be pursued when no good alternatives exist.[8]
    • Consider talking to your school counselor or a trusted adult friend about your options. They may be able to mediate an agreement between you and your parents that would help you feel comfortable living under their guardianship until you reach age 18.
    • If you don't want to live with your parents anymore, and your reason is that you don't get along with them or you disagree with their rules, you're probably better off staying with a relative or friend for a while instead of pursuing legal emancipation.
    • If you are in an abusive situation, emancipation still might not be the best choice, since emancipated individuals can no longer be aided by Child Protective Services. Contacting your state's Child Protective Services might be the option that better meets your needs.
  2. When you pursue emancipation, you must prove to the courts that you are financially independent and that you have a job. If you don't have one, find a job as soon as possible to start making money.[9]
    • Write a resume that includes previous jobs, volunteer work, and clubs and other activities. Look in the classified section of your local newspaper for jobs that don't require a high school diploma if you don’t have one yet.
    • Save as much of your money as you can. Don't spend money on clothes or entertainment. Buy what you do need second-hand, or try to find it for free. Grocery shop frugally; buy cheap staples like beans, cabbage and tuna. Open a savings account at your local bank.
  3. When you pursue emancipation, you must be able to show the courts that you are living in a permanent home. You will probably not be able to afford buying a home, so look for a small, cheap apartment. Or, set up a permanent arrangement with a relative or friend.
  4. The emancipation process is easier if your parents agree that it's the best course. If they don't, you will have to prove that they are not supporting you.[10]
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About This Article

Hannah Madden
Co-authored by:
wikiHow Staff Writer
This article was co-authored by wikiHow staff writer, Hannah Madden. Hannah Madden is a writer, editor, and artist currently living in Portland, Oregon. In 2018, she graduated from Portland State University with a B.S. in Environmental Studies. Hannah enjoys writing articles about conservation, sustainability, and eco-friendly products. When she isn’t writing, you can find Hannah working on hand embroidery projects and listening to music. This article has been viewed 1,102,541 times.
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Co-authors: 68
Updated: March 1, 2024
Views: 1,102,541
Categories: Youth
Article SummaryX

To get emancipated as a teen, focus on living your life independently and following the legal requirements to get emancipated. To prove your independence, find a job so you can pay for your own living expenses. Additionally, look for a place to live so you can prove that you have your own permanent address. When you feel ready to apply, fill out a petition for emancipation, which you can get from your local Circuit Court. Make sure you attach an affidavit giving your reasons for wanting to be emancipated. Once you’ve handed in the documents, attend a preliminary hearing in court when you’re requested to do so. At the hearing, you’ll need to prove that you’re self-sufficient and that your parents are not providing for you. For tips on how to decide if emancipation is a good idea, keep reading!

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