What Does It Mean for a Minor to Be Emancipated?

Most people never hear about a minor becoming emancipated unless it involves someone newsworthy - a teenage actor or actress, for instance - who wants to become legally self-sufficient. The assumption may be that these famous people are trying to protect their earnings from their parents, but there are other reasons why a minor might want to become emancipated.

At age 18, except in some cases of disability, teenagers automatically become emancipated, meaning they are legally independent. However, some 16- and 17-year-olds may seek early emancipation by filing a lawsuit and providing evidence - through witness testimony, school records, employment records, declaration of future life plans, etc. - of sufficient maturity. The decision is ultimately up to the judge, who may deny the request if the teenager has no source of income or the parents object for good reason.

Another situation that’s been in the news recently is homelessness among gay teenagers. Illinois law recognizes the situation of homeless minors as one that demands attention and makes emancipation possible for them without an initial hearing so they can obtain food, shelter and other necessary services.

The emancipated minor isn’t the only person affected by the process. The judgment relieves the parents of any future financial responsibility for the person. An exception is if the parents are divorced and the child is under 23 and pursuing higher education.

The laws pertaining to the emancipation of a minor can be confusing, and the way these situations are handled tends to be case-specific. For these reasons, you should contact a skilled family law attorney in Chicago for the guidance you need. 

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