Historically, parents are responsible for their children. They are also required to feed, clothe, educate, and act in their children’s best interest until they reach the “age of majority” or the age in which, for most purposes, the children are considered to be adults. State law can allow a minor to ask a state court to determine that the minor is able to assume adult responsibilities before reaching the age of majority. The term, emancipation refers to the point at which a minor becomes self-supporting, assumes adult responsibility for his or her welfare, and is no longer under the care of his or her parents. Upon achieving emancipation, the minor thereby assumes the rights, privileges, and duties of adulthood before actually reaching the “age of majority” (adulthood). At that point, the minor’s parents are no longer responsible for that child and, also, have no claim to the minor’s earnings. During the court proceedings and before granting emancipation, the court considers, primarily, the best interests and level of maturity of the minor and confirms that the minor is able to financially support him or herself.
However, even when minors achieve emancipation, they cannot take part in any activity such as purchasing and/or drinking alcohol, voting, or getting married which, by statute, may require that the participant have attained an older age.
Close to half of the states, including New York and Pennsylvania, provide no separate statutory provisions for emancipation. Instead, these states rely on the fact that emancipation is automatically achieved upon a minor getting married, joining the armed forces, or reaching the age of majority which is now lower (usually eighteen years of age) than what was once commonly mandated as twenty-one years of age.