If you’re a kid and you believe it’s time to make a break from your parents’ iron grip, there is a way to do it legally, and it’s called emancipation.  But emancipation is not a unilateral proposition.  It is not a panacea to solving all problems.

The emancipation process is complex and a child cannot do it alone.  Mom or pops will have to go along and give their consent in order for a court of law to approve such a process.

In California, emancipation is covered under family code sections 7002 and 7120.  Legally speaking, it is that point in time, when mom and dad are no longer responsible for their children, and their children no longer have to answer to mom and dad.  Once this legally takes place, a child no longer has to have their parents’ permission to do anything.  They are free in so much as the child is now responsible to provide their own support and necessities of life such as food, shelter, and medical care.  Once emancipated, a minor may live wherever he or she wants.

The emancipated child can make his or her own decisions regarding all medical, dental, and psychiatric issues.  The emancipated youth may also enter into legally binding contracts, sue and be sued in his or her own name, make or revoke wills, buy or sell interests in property, and apply for a work permit without parental consent.

This is also a time where parents of emancipated children will no longer be able to control his or her child’s earnings.  According to Family Code § 7050, the child will now bear responsibility for his or her own financial affairs.  Under California Family Code § 7140, an emancipated youth’s identification card or driver’s license can state his or her legally emancipated status.

In California, emancipation can occur automatically, like when a minor turns 18, the time the youth legally becomes an adult.  Or, when a minor marries they also become emancipated from their parents.  Under Family Code § 7002(a)(b), a minor is emancipated when on active duty with the Armed Forces.

Minors may also become emancipated by filing their own petition with the courts.  The minor must be at least 14 years of age to do so, and he or she must state that they would like to be emancipated and that they are willing to live separate and apart from their parents or guardian.  It must be proven that this decision was made voluntarily and that the minor has parental consent to manage his or her own financial affairs.  The child must show the court how much money he or she makes and how future expenses will be managed, which includes the costs of rent, clothes, food, and entertainment (Family Code§ 7120).

Family Code § 7121 dictates that the minor’s parents or guardian must be notified before the petition for emancipation is heard, unless the youth can show that their address is unknown or that notice cannot be given for some reason.  Most importantly, a judge must find that it is in the minor’s best interests to become emancipated.  So, if after the minor’s emancipation has been granted, circumstances change for the worse for the youth, the court has the power to rescind the order and notify the minor’s parents.

Lastly, it is important for kids to note that running away does not legally emancipate you.  And on the other side of the coin, parents cannot simply abandon their children in hopes of turning over their child’s legal responsibilities to the child.  In such cases, the child may acquire the right to determine their place of residence and make certain other decisions without losing their right to parental support.

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