It is natural for children and parents to have disagreements.  If you listen to any home with teenagers, you will eventually hear an argument or hateful words. You, yourself as a teenager probably uttered similar words to your parents out of anger or frustration.  99% of the time, the teenager does not mean it. There is, however, the 1% where a child needs to be “divorced” from his or her parent(s).  In Florida, the process is emancipation.

What is Emancipation?

Emancipation is the legal term for a minor to gain the rights and responsibilities of an adult.  Florida automatically extends emancipation to people once they reach the age of 18.  In some cases, however, a minor might need to become emancipated before they reach the age of 18.

How Does It Work

The process of emancipation is not a simple one, it takes months or years to achieve.  The first step into becoming emancipated is for the minor to file a Petition for Emancipation of a Minor.  This petition shows that the minor is in a position to financially take care of themselves, independent of public benefits. Additionally, it proves that granting the petition would be in the best interest of the minor.  If the court agrees that a minor can financially support themselves and that it is in their best interest, then emancipation may be granted which would terminate his or her parent(s) parental rights and obligations to the child.

What Legal Hurdles Exist?

Beyond showing that the minor is capable of supporting themselves and it is in their best interest to become emancipated, the petition of emancipation must be signed by both parents, a legal guardian, or a court-appointed guardian.  This becomes a problem if one or both parents refuse to sign or cannot be found.

There are cases where a parent(s) or guardian refuses to sign the petition of emancipation. In that instance, the minor will need to file a Motion for Default.  This motion gives the parent(s) or guardian 20 days to respond to the petition.  If they fail to respond then the court grants default judgment on behalf of the minor that essentially will serve as the parent(s) or guardian’s consent to the petition of emancipation.

If the court agrees to the petition, then a judge will issue and sign a document called Recommendation and Decree of Emancipation. The decree legally recognizes the minor as an adult despite being under the age of 18.

What Happens Afterward?

After the court grants emancipation, the minor has almost all the rights and responsibilities of an adult.  Granted, the minor will not be allowed to vote, purchase alcohol, cigarettes, or lottery tickets until they are of age, but they will be able to work and not have any child labor laws imposed on them.  Additionally, they will have the right to enter into enforceable contracts such as leasing or purchasing a home.

What Are the Common Reasons For Emancipation?

Although there could be any number of reasons why a minor might seek emancipation, the most common reason in Florida are as follows:

  1. If a minor who is married and pregnant may apply for emancipation so they can be treated as an adult when it comes to accepting or refusing medical care for complications that may arise as a result of the pregnancy.
  2. If 17-year-old minor wishes to enlist in the military before turning 18.

Emancipation is a Complicated Process

Emancipation is a complicated process and should only be undertaken with the advice of an experienced attorney.  The lawyers at Thompson Law are available to consult you on your legal rights and advise you on the best course of action.