Emancipation of Minors

Emancipation is the legal process by which a person under 18 years of age (a minor) is granted the legal status of an adult. In Pennsylvania, there is no general emancipation statute which explains procedures to follow to obtain that legal status. Instead, the emancipation of a minor is based on the specific facts in a given situation. For example, just because a child has dropped out of school or has a job does not mean that minor is automatically emancipated. Also, a court finding of emancipation is not necessarily permanent. A minor’s legal status may move in and out of emancipation depending on the facts at the time. It is important to understand that parents may not pursue a court declaration of emancipation merely to avoid parental responsibilities. Also, minors may not request a finding of emancipation just to escape rules of their parents that the minors may not like.

Typically, a minor may be emancipated for a specific purpose, but that does not mean the child is completely emancipated. For example, a minor might be found emancipated in order to give medical consent, but he or she still may not be able vote or purchase alcohol and may still be supported by a parent, or may be required to attend school under school attendance laws, even if the minor has been found to be emancipated for a different limited purpose.

The status of emancipation is not obtained merely by filing a petition or a request for a court declaration of emancipation. An actual hearing must be held for the court to determine whether a finding of emancipation is appropriate. However, such a hearing is usually part of another type of proceeding already before the court involving the minor and the child’s parents (such as support, custody, truancy, dependency). Emancipation status sometimes is granted in order to make the minor eligible for a benefit or service which a government agency provides. However, if granted, the emancipation status is only for that limited purpose.

Because emancipation is a fact sensitive area of the law and is not an absolute right, forms of sample petitions do not exist and instructions to obtain emancipation cannot be provided. If you have questions regarding an emancipation issue, you should consult an attorney.