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Emancipation of Minors

Minors can be adjudicated to be adults, or emancipated, if certain legal requirements are met and the court finds that it is in the best interests of the minor. Once emancipated, any legal limitations that are generally attached to minors are extinguished. For example, the emancipated minor can sign a lease contract.


In order to be declared an adult, the minor must file a petition with the court. Generally, laws prohibit minors under 16 or 17 years of age from filing a petition under any circumstances. The minor may also be required to be living on her own and be self-supporting at the time she files the petition.

SIDEBAR: The minor can file the petition in her own name.

SIDEBAR: The court may be required to appoint an attorney (the attorney ad litem) to represent the minor.

If my 16-year-old daughter becomes emancipated, will I still be entitled to receive child support from my ex-husband?

No. The obligation to pay child support usually terminates when the child becomes an adult. Once your daughter is emancipated, she is legally an adult and your ex-husband no longer has to pay child support.

What is partial emancipation?

Partial emancipation means that child is emancipated only:

  • for a certain period of time, or
  • for some special purpose (such as the right to earn and spend his/her own wages) or
  • from a part of a parent's rights (such as the right to make decisions about a pregnancy).

SIDEBAR: A minor that is partially emancipated is still entitled to support from her parents (although she is able to make her own legal decisions), and an ex-spouse would have to continue to pay child support until the child was 18 years old.

Can an emancipated minor vote before he turns 18 years old?

No. Although considered an adult for some legal purposes, the law requires voters to be 18 years old.

Does the 21-year-old age limit for drinking apply to me if I am emancipated?

Yes. You are still required to follow the law, and the law requires a person to be 21 years old before he or she can purchase or drink alcohol.

Am I automatically emancipated if I join the armed services?

No. In fact, parental consent is required before a minor is allowed to join or enlist in the military.

TIP: Under-age members of the military may consent to their own medical treatment.

Does getting married emancipate me?

Yes. Laws in some states permit married minors to consent to medical treatment for themselves and their children, enter in to contracts, and make other legal decisions.

SIDEBAR: Having a child does not confer emancipation upon a minor, although the minor parent can consent to medical treatment for the child.

I am 17 years old and signed an apartment lease. Is it valid?

Yes. However, since you are under age, you can "void" or break the contract. Generally, minors cannot be held to the terms of a contract they enter into on their own. If you are emancipated, a court may require you to fulfill the lease obligation.

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