In general, parents or legal guardians are responsible for their children until they reach the age of majority – that’s 18 in California. That means the parents (or guardians) must provide food, clothing, shelter, and other necessities. It also means they get to choose where the child goes to school, what medical care they receive, and what happens to their earnings. Sometimes, children want to strike out on their own and assume responsibility for their own lives – become “emancipated.” Here’s what you need to know about the emancipation of minors in California.
Why Do Children Become Emancipated?
There are lots of reasons a child may want to step away from parental support and/or control. In some cases, children want to leave an abusive or dangerous situation. Sometimes kids just can’t get along with their parents or guardians and believe they’ll be better off on their own. In other cases, children may end up with significant earnings (like a child movie star or musician) and want to have control over their own management and money.
Requirements For Emancipation Of Minors
There’s a reason that the law gives an age of majority. Younger people may be unable to support themselves or handle the responsibilities of daily life. They’re not fully developed and may not have the reliable judgment on serious issues like health care or education. It may be unsafe for a minor to live alone. So, the emancipation of minors is carefully regulated. You must meet certain requirements and go through certain procedures in order to qualify and actually accomplish it. There are three main ways you can get emancipated: getting married, joining the armed forces, or getting a court order.
Emancipation By Marriage
First, you can get married. California is one of the few states with out a minimum age limit for marriage. However, you can’t simply get married like someone over the age of 18. You’ll need:
- written consent from a parent or legal guardian of each underage party
- a court order, if there is no parent or guardian capable of giving consent
- in some cases, state-mandated marriage counseling about the social, economic, and personal responsibilities and consequences of marriage
Cal. Fam. Code § 302-304.
If you meet those requirements, you can get married. At that point, you’re automatically legally emancipated from your parents.
Emancipation By Joining The Armed Forces
If you join the armed forces, you’re automatically emancipated. Applying isn’t enough; you must actually be accepted by the armed forces. By law, they can accept people as young as 17. However, people under the age of 18 must have written parental consent in order to join the military. In general, the military only accepts people with a high school diploma or G.E.D. and you’ll need to pass a physical medical exam.
Emancipation By Court Order
The third method of emancipation of minors is the court order. To get emancipated this way, you must be at least 14 years old. You’ll need to fill out these forms and file them with your local Superior Court:
- Petition for Declaration of Emancipation of Minor
- Emancipation of Minor Income and Expense Declaration
- Notice of Hearing
- Declaration of Emancipation of Minor After Hearing
- Some local courts require other forms, so you’ll need to contact them
You’ll also need to write a statement to the court explaining why you want to be emancipated, how you’re supporting yourself, and how you’re supporting any children you have. You may want to attach letters from your landlord and boss to show the court that you’re a responsible tenant and employee and verify that you have a place to live and steady income.
Once you have all of that paperwork together, you may want to contact your local court and ask if their self-help center or family law facilitator helps with the emancipation of minors. If they do, you may want to meet with them to ensure that all of your forms are filled out correctly and that you know where you need to file them.
When your paperwork is ready to go, make copies of it for yourself and take it to your local court to file. If your parents consent to the emancipation, a judge will review your case and either approve or deny it. They may also request a hearing. If your parents do not consent to your emancipation, you’ll also need to schedule a hearing.
That hearing will usually be held within 30 days. As soon as possible, you’ll need to “give notice” to your parents or guardians. That means you’ll need to make copies of all of your paperwork and have someone over the age of 18 deliver it to them. That person will fill out a proof of service form and you’ll need to file it with the court. At the hearing, bring any responsible adults that can explain to the court that you should be emancipated. You’ll need to tell the judge why you want to be emancipated and explain how you’re going to support yourself. In general, the judge will make a decision at the hearing.
Once the judge accepts your petition, the court will fill out the rest of your Declaration of Emancipation After Hearing form and you’ll need to file it with the clerk. The clerk will give you certified copies of that form – keep them in a safe place because you’ll need them for employers, schools, and anyone else that might require parental permission.
The Rights Of Children And Parents/Guardians After Emancipation
Once you’re emancipated, you’re in charge of your own care and legal duties. You’ll have to support yourself. You now have the right to decide where you live, what medical care you receive, and where you want to go to school. You have control over your own earnings and how you manage them.
Your parents or guardians, on the other hand, no longer have any ability to control where you live, your health care, your education, or your earnings. They also have no obligation to feed you, house you, clothe you, or otherwise provide support.
The emancipation of minors can offer children a way out of a difficult home life, but it’s not an easy decision to make. Supporting yourself and handling the day-to-day affairs of adult life isn’t easy, so this isn’t a decision to take lightly.
If you want to learn more about emancipation, we can help.