One method children can use to “divorce” their parents is to become emancipated. The word “emancipation” means to become free from the control or restraint of another. In the context of emancipated minors, emancipation is a legal procedure whereby children become legally responsible for themselves and their parents are no longer responsible. Emancipated children are freed from parental custody and control and are adults for most legal purposes. Parents of a child have not only responsibility for the child but also legal control over any money the child may earn. Many famous child performers and athletes have sued their parents, often claiming that money earning by the child star was mismanaged, seeking to have the courts declare the child an adult. In fact, it is possible for a child or a teenager to seek legal emancipation and be declared an adult before age 18, although the process can be difficult. In order to become emancipated, a minor must convince a judge he or she has a place to live and sufficient money and income to be self-supporting. But since minors are not permitted to sign legally binding contracts such as rental agreements, proving such self-sufficiency can be difficult. Emancipation does not require any proof of abuse or neglect by the parents. It can be granted for educational purposes, if a teenager is starting college early and wants to rent an apartment. Many young actors and musicians who are not fighting with their parents over money seek emancipation in order to avoid strict child labor laws. Emancipation laws vary from state to state. Some states have no age restrictions, while others set the age from 14 to 17. Some states also require parental consent or acquiescence, which may be demonstrated by circumstantial evidence. Emancipation is typically automatic when a teenager marries or joins the military; however, emancipation does not override age restrictions for getting married. Some states require the emancipated teen to undergo counseling with an appointed advisor.
An emancipated minor is entitled to make almost all medical, dental, and psychiatric care decisions, enter into a contract, sue and be sued, make a will, buy or sell property, and apply for a work permit without parental consent. The emancipated minor is obligated to self-support but must also follow state laws regarding such requirements as compulsory school attendance. Federal age rules relating to actions such as selective service registration, and voting rights do not change simply because a minor is emancipated.