What You Need to Know to Become an Emancipated Minor

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If you’re considering becoming an emancipated minor, there are several legal and financial steps you’ll need to take. From petitioning the courts to getting insurance to making a budget, read on for everything you need to know before setting out on your own.

What It Means to Be an Emancipated Minor

In short, becoming an emancipated minor means that you are considered an adult before age 18, and are legally separated from your parents or legal guardians. Keep in mind that while 18 is the legal age in most states, it can vary.

Being emancipated means your parents are no longer responsible for providing you with food, clothing, and shelter. It also means you can get a work permit, earn money, and decide what to do with your earnings. You can also legally live on your own and do other things, like rent an apartment or sign a legal contract.

Legal Actions

The most common way to be emancipated from your parents is to petition the court. To be emancipated, you’ll need to be at least 14–16 years old, depending on your state, and be able to prove that being emancipated from your parents is in your best interest.

It’s also helpful if you can prove that you can support yourself financially and are capable of making your own decisions. It helps your argument if you have already set up living arrangements away from your parents or guardians. Basically, you have to prove that you are up for the task of being on your own and living like an adult—budget, bills, and all.

Steps to Becoming Emancipated

The process of becoming legally emancipated is relatively simple. First, you’ll have to file a petition for emancipation with the courts, which includes why you want to be emancipated, as well as proof that you can support yourself financially. Next, your parents or guardians will be notified of the petition, and a hearing is scheduled. During the hearing, the judge will hear your case for emancipation, then make a ruling based on the information presented. If you are granted emancipation, you’ll get a Declaration of Emancipation. You should keep this on hand and have copies readily available; you’ll need to provide them instead of parental consent in the future.

You can also become an emancipated minor by joining the military or getting married. However, if you plan to do so by getting married, you’re still required to follow your state’s marriage laws. In some cases, you’ll need parental consent to get married before age 18. Joining the military requires a high school diploma or GED to enlist so it’s likely that the earliest you could be emancipated is age 17.

Financial Preparation

If you are planning on legally extricating yourself from your parents, you first need to be able to support yourself financially. You’ll need a job and source of income that you can comfortably live on. A realistic monthly budget is another must-have for emancipated minors. Be sure to factor in the cost of housing, food, car payments, gas, healthcare, and savings. You’ll also need a bank account with both a savings and checking account.

An emergency fund is also a great idea to cover things like unexpected expenses or medical bills. While you can start small with an emergency fund of $1,000, most experts recommend setting aside 3–6 months of living expenses, either in cash or relatively liquid funds.

As an emancipated minor, you are also able to get a credit card. If you open it, be sure to use it responsibly, and pay off the balance in full each month. Having a credit card will help you begin building credit, so don't shy away from it. You’ll also need to obtain insurance. This includes car insurance, renters insurance, and most importantly, health insurance. Obtaining health insurance can be costly, so be sure to factor this into your budget.

Limits of Emancipated Minors

While you may think that once you become an emancipated minor, you can do anything that a legal adult can do, that isn’t always the case. While the laws vary by state, emancipated minors may not be able to get married, quit school, get a driver’s license, vote, or drink alcohol. However, as an emancipated minor, you will usually be able to rent an apartment or buy a home, enroll in school, earn an income and keep it all, and make your own healthcare decisions—especially as it relates to birth control.