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Message #581 Emancipation of minors from parents

mp3 #581 Emancipation Freedom From Parents by Minors (mp3 file)


If you are a young person who is age 14 through 17, California law has a court procedure that makes it possible for you to become legally emancipated or freed from your parents' responsibility and control. The advantage to your parents is that they are no longer required to support you financially. This message will tell you who is eligible for emancipation, what emancipation means for you and your parents, and the procedure to follow if you wish to be legally emancipated from your parents.

A minor in California is anyone under the age of 18. All minors are automatically emancipated from their parents' responsibility and control, when they reach their 18th birthdays, and become adults in the eyes of the law. Some minors are automatically emancipated before they turn age 18. These are minors who are legally married or previously married, and minors who are on active duty in the armed forces. Other minors who wish to be formally emancipated, before they reach age 18, may petition the superior court for a declaration of emancipation. You are eligible to petition the court, however, only if you meet all of the following conditions:

1. You must be at least 14 years of age, and

2. You must willingly be living separately and apart from your parents or legal guardian, with their consent or lack of objection, and

3. You must be managing your own financial affairs, and

4. Your income does not come from any criminal activity.

If you are a young person, who is age 14 through 17, why might you want to become legally emancipated from your parents?

You may already be a teenager who is living completely on your own, with your parents’ knowledge and consent or their lack of objection, and you may want your emancipated status legally clarified, so you can conduct your personal business, such as renting an apartment or buying a car in your own name.

Or you may be a teenager who is caught up in a lengthy family crisis, a crisis that has become an ongoing war between you and your parents. If you have a job or some other reliable source of income, further attempts at patching things up with your parents appear to be futile, you and your parents may wish to explore the possibility of formal emancipation.

Or even without a family crisis, you and your parents or legal guardian may simply desire an early ending of the parent-child relationship, because you have matured early and are self-supporting, or for other reasons.

What are the legal consequences, of a formal court order, that declares your emancipation from your parents or legal guardian? As a result of formal emancipation, these are some of the legal consequences for you and your parents:

1. You may give your own consent to medical, dental, or psychiatric care, without your parents' knowledge or liability.

2. You may enter into a binding legal contract. You may make or revoke a will or a trust.

3. You may sue and be sued in your own name.

4. You no longer have the right of financial support from your parents, and your parents no longer have any rights to take your earnings from you.

5. Your parents no longer have any right to control your activities or your behavior.

6. You may establish your own separate residence at a place of your choice.

7. You may buy, sell or lease real estate or personal property, including shares of stock, or a membership in a non-profit organization.

8. You may obtain a work permit without the permission of your parents or guardian.

9. You may enroll in any school or college, but you are not exempt from compulsory school attendance laws.

10. You may no longer be detained as a runaway by police or probation officers.

11. You are no longer entitled to be supported by your parents, or by state funds if your parents are unable to support you. You cannot be emancipated for the purpose of obtaining welfare.

However, you may be eligible for certain public benefits such as CalWorks (if you have a child), WIC, and/or food stamps (if you have a baby), Medi-cal (if you meet the income requirements), and unemployment compensation (if you lose your job) .

If you become unable to support yourself, you may ask the superior court to rescind or undo your emancipation.

12. If you are charged with committing a crime, you will still be subject to the juvenile court despite your emancipation status.

13. You may obtain your own driver's license, without your parents' consent. However, you must still take a driver training course, and prove your financial responsibility, before obtaining your driver's license.

Both you and your parents should understand just how far-reaching are the consequences of emancipation. Your parents will lose all legal control over your behavior and activities. You will no longer be able to lean on your parents for financial support, so you will need a realistic plan for self-support that will last until you are age 18, and beyond.

The court might refuse to grant your emancipation request if you and your parents are unwilling to accept the legal consequences, or if you are simply trying to harass your parents into being more lenient toward you at home. Also, if you are only 14 or 15 years of age, you might have a harder time convincing a judge to issue a declaration of emancipation for you. If you are 16 or 17 years old, however, and have a job, you may be more likely to win the approval of the judge, who will consider your age, among other things, before finding that emancipation is not contrary to your best interests.

If you find that you are eligible for emancipation, and if you decide that emancipation is what you want, what is the legal procedure for you to follow?

First, you file a petition with the superior court in the county where you reside, or where you are now living even temporarily. You may or may not be living in the same county where your parents live. A printed form for the petition, which is called "Petition for Declaration of Emancipation of Minor," may be obtained from the County Superior Court Clerk's Office. You may fill out the form yourself, or you may obtain help of a Legal Aid office, the county Public Defender's office, or a private attorney. You are usually not required to have an attorney, however, because the law recognizes that young persons seeking emancipation will often be acting as their own attorneys. But you may hire your own attorney if you want one. If you act as your own lawyer, your only cost is a court filing fee of between $100 and $140, depending on the county. Some counties, including San Francisco, do not charge a fee. This fee is sometimes waived by the court if you cannot afford it, if you fill out a form asking the court to waive the fee.

After filling out the petition form, you should ask your parents to give their consent by signing the form. In some counties, if you have your parents' signatures the judge may declare you emancipated without a hearing.

If you cannot get your parents to sign the form, or if your county has a policy of holding a hearing in every case, then the court will set a hearing date. Then, your parents or legal guardian must be officially notified of your petition and the hearing date.

If you are a ward or a dependent child of the juvenile court, notice is given to the county Probation Department. If your parents' addresses are unknown, or they cannot be notified for other reasons, you must state this to the court. The court clerk must also notify the District Attorney of the county where the matter is to be heard.

At the court hearing, the judge will probably ask you questions, to make sure of the truth of the facts that you have stated on your petition. Be sure to take your wage stubs and rent receipts with you to court. If your parents are present, they will be asked if they go along with your plan. The judge will also want to know how you intend to support yourself until you are age 18. The judge will grant your petition, and declare that you are legally emancipated, if the judge finds that the facts in your petition are true, and if the judge feels that emancipation will not be against your best interests. Your parents are not required to attend the hearing, and as long as they have been properly notified of the hearing, the petition may be granted in their absence.

If the judge denies your petition, and rules against you, you may appeal the judge's decision, by filing what is called a Writ of Mandate. If your parents or legal guardian have personally appeared at the hearing, and spoke against your request for emancipation, they too may appeal the decision by a Writ of Mandate, if the judge rules in your favor and against them.

When the court approves your petition, the judge will sign a declaration that you are now an emancipated minor. A certified copy of the declaration will be proof that you are legally emancipated, and you should keep this document. You may apply to the California Department of Motor Vehicles for an identification card, which will state that you are emancipated. The DMV will also enter the fact of your emancipation on your driver's license, and into its law enforcement computer information system.

What about ending emancipation before you reach age 18, if you find that emancipation was a mistake for you? You may have your emancipation declaration rescinded or reversed, by filing another petition with the court, with notice to your parents or guardian. The court must rescind your emancipation, if it finds that you are broke and have no means of financial support. A petition for recession may also be filed by any person or agency, if you originally obtained emancipation by lying to the court or by withholding important information. Your parents must receive actual notice of the court's action, before they are again responsible for you. You still must fulfill any contracts you entered into while you were emancipated.

Under California law, you and your parents can informally agree that you may live apart from them, without going to court for a declaration of emancipation. (such an informal agreement, however, does not mean that you give up your right to receive financial support from your parents if you need it.)

However, an informal agreement will not entitle you to receive a written Declaration of Emancipation from the court, or a DMV identification card. Without these things, you might have trouble convincing landlords, employers, school officials, or the police to treat you as emancipated.

So if you and your parents decide that a real ending of The parent-child relationship is desirable before you reach age 18, then you should go through the formal court procedure, to make sure that your emancipation is fully effective, with your new status and its legal effects clearly defined and known to everyone.

California laws that relate to the emancipation of minors, are found in the California Civil Code, Sections 60 through 70, which may be found in many public libraries.

For a 40-page Emancipation Manual, which includes all the forms you need, and step-by-step instructions in filling them out and becoming legally emancipated, you may write to Legal Services for Children, 1254 Market Street, Third Floor, San Francisco, California, 94102, or telephone area code 415 - 863-3762. The emancipation manual is sent free to persons under age 18, and is available for the cost of duplication and mailing to other interested persons.

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