A child under 18 years of age is considered a minor in California. A parent is responsible for caring for their child until they reach the age of 18 years in most cases. Parents provide for the minor’s health care, education, food, shelter, clothing, and other essential items.

However, emancipation changes that requirement. Emancipation is the legal process of severing a parent or guardian’s control over a child before the child reaches the age of 18 years. Emancipation allows a minor to make most decisions about their life without parental involvement.

Generally, emancipation by court order is usually permanent. However, the court could set aside the emancipation of a minor who cannot support themselves. The court may also set aside emancipation if the minor lied on their petition for emancipation.

What Impact Does Emancipation Have on the Parents and the Child?

When a minor child is emancipated, that child can make decisions for themselves. They are no longer under the control and supervision of a parent or guardian. Therefore, the child can decide:

  • Where they live and who lives with them
  • Make decisions about their education
  • Enter legal and binding contracts
  • Make decisions regarding their health care
  • Decide how they choose to live their life, including who they associate with, the activities they engage in, and whether they want to work
  • Obtain a worker’s permit without the consent of a parent or guardian
  • File legal actions in all California courts

Even though a minor is emancipated, they must obey the law. Therefore, they must attend school until they reach an age to leave the school system legally. Additionally, they must meet all requirements to get a driver’s license or enter into a marriage based on their age.

For a parent, emancipation releases the parent from the legal obligation to support and care for the minor child. If the child refuses to attend school or breaks the law, the parent is no longer held liable. The parent is under no legal obligation to provide shelter, clothing, food, or financial support for an emancipated child.

How Can a Minor Become Emancipated in California?

There are three ways that a minor can be emancipated under California law.

Petition the Court

The minor child files a petition with the court seeking emancipation. However, the minor has the burden of proving that they meet each of the requirements for judicial emancipation.

Get Married

A minor becomes emancipated if they get married. Under California Family Code §302, a person under 18 years of age can obtain a marriage license after receiving a court order allowing the minor to enter into marriage. 

However, the minor must have written consent from one or both parents who have legal custody of the minor or the minor’s legal guardian. If the minor is a ward of the state, they must have a court order consenting to the marriage.

In some counties, the minors and the parents or guardians may have to attend an interview with Family Court Services. 

Join the Armed Forces

A minor is emancipated if they join the armed services. First, however, they must have their parent’s consent and meet all requirements of the branch of military service they wish to enlist. That includes being accepted into service by the military.

What Are the Requirements to Obtain Emancipation by a Judge?

A minor must petition the court in their county of residence for emancipation. This is done by filing all the required court emancipation forms. The minor has the burden of proving the following requirements for emancipation:

  • You are at least 14 years old
  • You willingly want to live separate and apart from your parents, and your parents do not object
  • You are capable of managing your finances
  • Your source of income is not from illegal activity
  • Emancipation is in your best interests

Emancipation may not be the only option if you do not want to live with your parents. You might be able to live with another adult or a relative. Your parents may consent to give the adult temporary custody, or the adult could petition the court for temporary custody if they have sufficient legal grounds.

A San Diego family law attorney can help you review your options regarding emancipation, child custody, and other matters related to family law. Some minors may seek emancipation for the wrong reasons. They may be frustrated or angry with their parents.

Family counseling or a mediator may be able to help parents and their minor children work through problems instead of seeking emancipation. In other cases, it might be in the best interest of all parties for the court to grant emancipation. The facts and circumstances of the case weigh heavily in the court’s decision.

Contact Our Divorce Law Firm in San Diego, CA

Contact our experienced San Diego divorce lawyers at San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC today for legal assistance. Contact our San Diego office at (619) 866-3756 to schedule a free consultation.

San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC
2851 Camino del Rio S #430
San Diego, CA 92108