The Post-Divorce-Parenting Glossary

Divorced-Parenting Term


   What is emancipation in divorce or separations?

   Emancipation is a term used in divorce, separation, and child custody cases where a child is beyond parental control.  Typically this happens when a child reaches legal adulthood, although under some circumstances, a emancipation can happen sooner.  This is referred to as "minor emancipation".  Once emancipation occurs, parents forfeit their rights to legally care for their emancipated child.
   How does emancipation affect child support?
   After a child is emancipated, child support typically ends.  An exception to this might be if the non-custodial parent is in arrears (i.e. there is unpaid child support).  In such a case, the non-custodial parent may still be required to pay child support until it is fully paid and nothing more is owed to the custodial parent.
   At what age is emancipation permitted?
   Different states, provinces, and countries have different laws regarding emancipation.  In the United States, most states are either 18 or 21 years of age for a child to become emancipated.  Some states also stipulate that the child must have graduated from high school, or reach age 19 if still in high school.  Some cases force a non-custodial parent to continue to pay child support until the child graduates college.


   Is early emancipation possible?
   For a child to be emancipated earlier than the normal ages where it occurs, a family court must order it.  Early emancipation requires the child to be at least 16 years old. Before it is granted, the person must be married and be able to manage his or her own finances. Furthermore, emancipation requires one to be living apart from the parents or the guardian.
   Early emancipation can be initiated by the teenager or the parent. The person would file a petition, typically via a lawyer. If the person filing the petition does not have money to hire a lawyer, the court can do it. It is only the responsibility of the judge to order emancipation.
   What responsibilities follow emancipation?
   The following are some of the responsibilities/changes that the emancipated teenager can expect after emancipation:

  •        The emancipated teen is free to get his or her own place to reside. This will come with the responsibility of paying the rent and other utility bills.
  •        The emancipated teen is free to seek medical care without the approval of the parent. However, it will be his or her responsibility to sort out the medical bills.
  •        The emancipated teen will be free to sue and can also be sued by other people.
  •        A teen who has been emancipated is no longer under the care of the parents. Consequently, the parents or the guardians do not have the obligation to financially support the emancipated teen. The state will not be obligated to help the person in the event of physical abuse or negligence.
  •        An emancipated teen can get a driver’s license. He or she can also enroll in a college without the approval of the parents.

   What reasons are recognized by the court for teenagers to divorce their parents?

   If parents are extremely controlling and abusive, there are legal channels in place to help.  Toxic relationships between teenagers and their parents are not uncommon.  Counseling is often the option that parents and their children should seek before considering early emancipation.
   Some of the reasons that a teen may decide they wish to be emancipated from (divorce their parents) are:

  •        Their parents hit or abuse them
  •        Their parents don't display respect for them
  •        Their parents lie or steal from their children (often in the case of drug use)

   Early emancipation is a decision that requires a lot of caution. If a teenager needs relief from any family problems and high-conflict parenting, emancipation is an option.



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