In most states in the United States, a person becomes a legal adult at the age of 18. Many states hold parents responsible for the acts of their children until they are 18, and many prohibit persons under the age of 18 from permanently leaving home without parental permission. A minor may, however, seek to be independent of parental control under a legal process known as emancipation. Every state has laws that permit some type of emancipation for minors.
The emancipation of a minor refers to a legal procedure that allows a person who has not reached the age of majority to terminate parental control. A minor who has been emancipated is free to make their own decisions, regardless of parental wishes. The minor will also, however, be fully responsible for all of their actions, including any contractual obligations. The latter fact is an exception to the long-standing legal principle that a minor lacks capacity to enter into a binding contract.
There are a number of different ways a minor can successfully become emancipated from parental control:
The court will consider all the evidence and issue a ruling either granting or denying emancipation. The parties are bound by the court order.
The emancipation of minors is governed exclusively by state law. In about half of the states across the country, statutes (written laws enacted by legislative bodies) are in place that address how and when a minor may be emancipated. In all other states, emancipation is regulated by the common law, judge-made law handed down in legal opinions arising out of court cases.
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