Emancipation is a legal process that frees a child who is between the ages of 14 and 18 from the custody and control of their parents or guardian. In California, there are three ways to get emancipated. First, a minor can obtain a declaration of emancipation (a court order) from a Judge. Second, a minor can get legally married with consent of your parents and permission from a court. Third, a minor can join the United States military on active duty.


There are three ways a child can become emancipated:
1. If you get married. Note that individuals under eighteen must get the written consent of

their parents or guardian and a court order if you get married before you turn eighteen.

  1. If you join the military. Note that both your parents and the armed forces must give

    you permission to enlist if you are under eighteen.

  2. If you go to court and have the judge declare you emancipated (“judicial

    declaration”). To get a Judge to emancipate you, you will need to file emancipation papers with a court. These papers are called your “petition” for emancipation. No adultcan file a petition to emancipate you—only you can file the petition.


To get emancipated, you will need to convince a Judge that you meet all of these requirements:

  1. You are at least fourteen years old.
  2. You don’t live with your parents or guardian, and they are either okay with this or are not

    actively trying to get you back.

    The law says you must “willingly live separate and apart from your parents or guardian with their consent or acquiescence.” This means that you will have to offer proof to the Judge that you have moved out of your parents’ or guardian’s home and moved in somewhere else, with the intent and the ability to live on your own. You will also have to prove that your parents or guardian have consented (said okay) to you moving out of their house, or that they aren’t actively trying to get you to come back home. As a general rule, it is easier to become emancipated if your parents or guardian consent to the emancipation.

  1. You manage your own finances.

    You must earn your own income and make all the decisions about how that money is spent. This means you’ll need to show the court proof that you have a stable job that pays you enough money to cover all of your living expenses. You may also have to show the court proof that you’re paying for those expenses– for example, receipts for rent, food, clothing, health care, or other necessary items.

    There’s no set amount of money that you have to earn in order to be emancipated, but you will have to show the court that your monthly income is more than the total of all of your expenses. If your only source of Income is welfare benefits (like CalWORKS or TANF), it may be hard to convince the Judge that you earn enough money to be emancipated.

    Judges often want you to be in school before they grant emancipation, so it’s better to be inschool or in a GED program when you apply if that’s at all possible for you. If you are not in school or a GED program, the Judge may decide to turn down your request to be emancipated. Although it is understandably difficult to hold down a job and go to school at the same time, the Judge will want proof that you’ve taken your education seriously and have a plan for your future.

  2. Your source of income is legal.

    This means that you can’t earn your income from any kind of criminal activity. You definitely can’t get emancipated if you earn money by committing crimes, like selling drugs or stealing things.

    The law isn’t clear on whether you qualify for emancipation if you work “under the table” and don’t pay taxes on your income. It will be up to the Judge who hears your case to makea decision. If you work “under the table” but still want to get emancipated, be sure to givethe court evidence that your job is a stable source of income. For example, even though you don’t have pay stubs, you might be able to show proof of regular deposits to your bank account or a copy of your work schedule.

5. Emancipation would be in your “best interests.”

You must convince the Judge that emancipation will make a positive impact on your life. Even if you meet all the other requirements, a Judge can turn down your request to be emancipated if she feels it wouldn’t be a good thing for you. When you go to court, your parents, guardian, or anyone else who doesn’t think you should be emancipated can try to convince the Judge that emancipation would be a bad thing for you.


Emancipation allows you to make many decisions about your life that usually would be made by your parent or guardian. In many– but not all– ways, emancipation makes you an adult in the eyes of the law. If you are emancipated, you can:

  1. Live where you want.
  2. Sign contracts.
  3. Keep the money you earn.
  4. Buy, sell, lease, or give away any interest you have in real or personal property.
  5. Get a work permit without parental consent.
  6. Enroll yourself in school.
  7. Sue someone in your own name.
  8. Make a valid Will.
  9. Consent to your own medical, dental, and psychiatric care.
  10. Stay out as late as you want. (Curfew laws do not apply to emancipated minors.)

    When you are emancipated, you are released from the custody and control of your parents.

If you have a legal guardian, that guardianship ends when you become emancipated. If you are a dependent (foster kid) or ward of the juvenile court, your legal status changes when you are emancipated.

As an emancipated minor, you can get any type of medical, psychiatric, or dental care without informing or getting the permission of your parent or guardian. You can decide where you will live. You can apply for a work permit and enroll yourself in school or college. You can sign a lease on an apartment and enter into other contracts. You can take part in lawsuits, get a bank loan or a credit card, and make a will. After you are emancipated, you should also be able to obtain financial assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (“TANF”). Keep in mind, though, that some courts may deny your emancipation petition if your only source of income is TANF.

There are negative consequences to emancipation, too: when you are emancipated, you give up the right to financial support from your parents. Your parents or guardian lose the right to control your finances, but they also are no longer required to support you. If you cannot support yourself, your emancipation may be undone by the courts and you will no longer be an emancipated minor. This is called ”rescission” of emancipation.

Emancipation does not make you an adult in all ways. The laws that require you to attend school still apply. Even if you are emancipated, if you are charged with a crime your case will be in Juvenile Court. You still have to follow labor laws that do not allow you to perform certain dangerous types of work. You can’t get your driver’s license any earlier because you are emancipated. Finally, you can’t legally consent (say yes) to sexual intercourse. This means that a person who has sex with an emancipated youth can still be prosecuted for statutory rape.

from California Courts

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