Emancipation of a minor is a legal process by which a minor is freed from control by his or her parents or guardians, and the parents or guardians are freed from any and all responsibility toward the child. Until an emancipation is granted by a court, a minor is still subject to the rules of their parents or guardians. People are minors (and therefore under the control of their parents or guardians) until they attain the age of majority (which in most states is set at 18 years old). However, in special circumstances, a minor can be freed from control by their guardian before turning 18. In most states, the circumstances in which a minor becomes emancipated are enlisting in the military and marriage, both of which require parent or guardian consent, or obtaining a court order from a judge.
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To determine emancipation, the court must analyze all the facts to determine whether the child has moved beyond the sphere of influence and responsibility exercised by a parent and obtains an independent status of his or her own. The circumstances to consider in determining whether a child is emancipated include the child’s age, marital status, and ability to support himself or herself, and the desire to live independently of parents. A child who is able to support himself or herself who voluntarily abandons his or her parents’ home is self-emancipated, however, this child may still have problems without a court order recognizing his or her emancipation.
The result of a child seeking emancipation is usually to end the parental support obligation, and establish the minor as a self-supporting individual independent of parental control. Although a subsequent change in situation does not revive any parental liability for support of an emancipated child capable of self-support, emancipation is not necessarily a permanent status, and the mere fact that a child was once emancipated does not foreclose divestiture of emancipation when circumstances change. In other words, a child’s unemancipated status may be revived provided there has been a sufficient change in circumstances to warrant the corresponding change in status.