Emancipation is a process by which a child under the age of 18 reaches at least some level of legal adulthood. There are two sides to emancipation: (1) the ending of parental responsibilities to a minor child and (2) the transfer of rights and responsibilities of adulthood to a minor child. Emancipation can be difficult to understand because there are many ways to become emancipated, for many different purposes. The law presumes that a minor under the age of 18 is not emancipated.
The broadest form of emancipation available is through the court system. In Erie, the minor would file a petition in the Erie County Court of Common Pleas. The minor's parents must be notified of the court hearing and are permitted to appear and speak as to their views of the minor's emancipation. In order to be emancipated, the minor must be living in a home outside her parents', not be receiving financial support from her parents and must be capable of responsibly controlling her own actions. The court will consider the minors' age, marital status, ability to support herself, and reasons for living independently from his or her parents.
When an emancipation is granted by the courts, the parents of the minor would generally no longer have parental rights or responsibilities regarding that child, including child support obligations, and parental liability for the tortuous acts of the minor child.
The emancipated minor child would generally be treated as an adult, with all the attendant rights and responsibilities. There are certain exceptions. For example, the minor child would still not have the ability to sign a binding contract as an adult and could not vote or drink alcoholic beverages.
A minor is not considered emancipated without an order of court. However, there are also more limited forms of emancipation. The use of the word, `emancipation' is confusing in these cases, because, while, the minor acquires certain rights of an adult, the rights fall short of those obtained when a court has issued an order declaring the minor to be emancipated.
Minors cannot marry without parental consent (ages 16-17) or parental consent and court approval (under age 16). However, once married, the minor is emancipated for some purposes. The marriage is sufficient to prove emancipation for purposes of public assistance benefits, schooling, and for consent to medical, dental and health care.
Minors who are parents have the same rights as adults when it comes to the custody and care of their child. These rights are acquired by the minor even if they still live with their parents or are still supported by their parents. Pregnant minors and minor mothers have the right to consent to their own health care.
School districts themselves will often make a determination of emancipation for the limited purposes of schooling. The most common issue occurs when a minor resides with an individual who is not a parent or a legal guardian. The school district may make a determination that the minor is emancipated and allow her to attend school in the district in which she resides.
A minor who is emancipated, married, pregnant, or the mother of a child may consent to her own medical treatment. A minor may only obtain an abortion without parental consent, however, where the minor is emancipated by order of court.
Minors are generally not eligible for public assistance benefits until they are 21 years of age. In order to be eligible for benefits between the ages of 16 and 21, the minor must provide proof of emancipation to the local assistance office. If that office determines that the minor is not eligible, the minor has the right to appeal through an administrative hearing process.
The qualifications for minors to receive Temporary Aid To Needy Families (TANF) are that the minor parent or pregnant minor must live with a parent, guardian or adult relative or caretaker. (There are some exceptions to this requirement to allow a minor parent to receive benefits when remaining in the home of her parents would not be in her best interests). The minor must be enrolled in school or employed. (Federal law establishes certain exceptions where the minor has children under the age of six).
The qualifications for general assistance benefits are that a minor who is 16 or over, but not yet 21 years of age must (1) have left the parental household and have her own residence independent of parental control, or (2) be married, regardless of whether the minor continues to reside in the parental household, or (3) be emancipated by order of court. There are limited circumstances where an unemancipated minor may still receive general assistance benefits.
The court is unable to answer legal questions as to whether or not you might be emancipated or whether you should seek emancipation. It is advisable that you consult with a lawyer regarding your specific situation.
If you need an attorney and don't have one, the Lawyer Referral and Information Service can help.