Emancipation of minors

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An emancipated minor is a minor who is allowed to conduct a business or any other occupation on his or her own behalf or for their own account outside the influence of a parent or guardian. The minor will then have full contractual capacity to conclude contract with regard to the business. Whether parental consent is needed to achieve the "emancipated" status varies from case to case. In some cases, court permission is necessary. Protocols vary by jurisdiction.

Emancipation of minors is a legal mechanism by which a minor is freed from control by his or her parents or guardians, and the parents or guardians are freed from any and all responsibility toward the child. Until an emancipation is granted by a court, a minor is still subject to the rules of their parents or guardians. In some cases, emancipation can be granted without due court granting when the minor is bound to make a decision for himself in the absence of his parents (who may be already dead or who may have abandoned the minor).

In most countries of the world, adolescents below the legal age of majority (adulthood) may be emancipated in some manner: through marriage, attaining economic self-sufficiency, obtaining an educational degree or diploma, or participating in a form of military service.

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Emancipation in the United States

Children are minors, and therefore under the control of their parents or legal guardians, until they attain the age of majority, at which point they become adults. In most states this is either 18 years old, or requires the person be either both 18 and out of high school or at least 20 years old. However, in special circumstances, minors can be freed from control by their guardian before turning 18.

The exact laws and protocols for obtaining emancipation vary from state to state. In most states, minors must file a petition with the family court in the applicable jurisdiction, formally requesting emancipation and citing reasons why it is in their best interest to be emancipated. Minors must prove financial self-sufficiency. In some states, free legal aid is available to minors seeking emancipation, through children's law centers. This can be a valuable resource for minors trying to create a convincing emancipation petition. Students are able to stay with a guardian if necessary.

Emancipations are not easily granted because of the subjectivity and narrowness of the definition of "best interest." Some are minors who have been victims of abuse. In most cases, the state's department of child services will be notified and the child placed in foster care. Others are minors who are seeking emancipation for reasons such as being dissatisfied with their parents' or guardians' rules.

Where a statute of limitations for bringing a legal action is tolled while a person is a minor, emancipation will usually end that tolling.

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