Whether undergoing a divorce, custody dispute, financial hardship or other struggle, Pennsylvania families in a difficult time may worry that their minor child will want to emancipate.
If your child has expressed the desire to emancipate, or you worry that he or she will, understanding state law concerning emancipation may help you plan your actions.
What does emancipation mean under the law?
In some states, emancipation is a process that minor children can undergo to become legal adults before they turn 18. PALawHelp.org explains that Pennsylvania treats these situations somewhat differently, and there is no statute concerning general emancipation. Minors may, however, achieve the right to enter contracts without parental consent, apply for benefits, make health care decisions for themselves and other specific tasks in some cases.
In Pennsylvania, there are many routes a child may take to gain these rights, and most will not need to get a court ruling. Many agencies can make discretionary decisions about what a child can and cannot do based on their dependency status and particular circumstances. Some agencies may make these decisions without a court’s declaration.
When can a child emancipate?
If a child does want to obtain a court ruling to become an emancipated minor, he or she will need to file a petition.
The court will consider the wishes of the parents, the child’s living situation and how much support he or she receives from you as parents. It will also consider how much authority you have over the child’s life and whether the child is already making major decisions independently. Another thing a court will consider is whether the child is capable of living on his or her own.
Courts will consider any other factors they deem relevant when deciding whether a child may emancipate. Rulings about this are ultimately rare, but they may be appropriate in some circumstances.
When a judge does make a ruling, he or she will most likely grant the child only the powers necessary to thrive and no others. For example, he or she may rule that the child can make health care but not financial decisions.