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Emancipation: When Teenagers Become ‘Adults’

In nearly every country worldwide, people are considered adults at age 18, and anyone under that age is considered a minor. This means that until you reach the age of adulthood, a minor is usually reliant on their legal guardian to take major decisions on their behalf. Why do we say usually? We’re glad you asked! Have you ever heard of emancipation? It’s a legal mechanism in most legislations by which a minor is granted independence from their legal guardian and receives a large number of the same rights and responsibilities as an adult.

Let’s have a closer look at this, shall we?

What is Parental Authority?

The rights and responsibilities that a parent holds towards a minor is often referred to as their parental authority. This means that the parent has the right to decide on the minor’s lifestyle, education and financial situation. By emancipating from their legal parents, this limits or ends the parental authority.

What is Emancipation?

Let’s get down to the meat and bones of the matter. As we’ve previously established, emancipation is the legal process by which a teenager can obtain either some or almost all the rights of an adult. Whether the minor seeks simple or full emancipation, they are recognized thereafter as “emancipated minors.”

The process can be initiated at any age, although cases involving minors younger than 16 are extremely rare and will require a very specific set of special circumstances for a judge to grant.

What are good reasons for emancipation?

As you can imagine, there need to be very good reasons for a minor to request and be granted emancipation. The law will not simply emancipate teenagers who are upset about their curfews or whose parents forbid them from seeing some people. Usually, for the minor to be granted emancipation from their legal guardians, there needs to be clear evidence of risk to the minor if they remain with the parents, either physical, emotional or financial. The minor will also need to demonstrate that they are able to take care of themselves and be responsible for their actions.

What is the impact of emancipation?

Whether the minor has sought simple or full emancipation, the fist major impact of emancipation is that the parents of the minor no longer have the duties of custody, supervision and education. This means that the minor is no longer required to live with their parents, and will not be considered runaways if they leave the home.

Under simple emancipation, teenagers can do some things alone that would otherwise need their tutors’ involvement. For example, under simple emancipation, minors do not have to be represented by their tutors when exercising their civil rights. They can therefore sign contracts and defend their own rights. However, under this mechanism, the parents still have the duty to advise and supervise acts that could seriously affect the teenager’s financial situation. They may be required to step in during inheritance proceedings, and the emancipated minor will not be able to take out a major loan with the parents’ consent.

Full emancipation gives teenagers full legal capacity, as well as a fair number of rights and duties usually reserved for adults. Therefore, emancipated minors can sue their parents for support, make a will, sign a lease, buy, rent, sell, or take out a mortgage, just like adults.

A particularity of full emancipation is that teenagers who get married are automatically fully emancipated. This doesn’t mean that they can run off and get married just to have the same freedoms as an adult. By law, teenagers must have the court’s permission to marry. Also, the minimum age for marriage is 16.

Emancipation has no effect on a teenager’s rights under other laws. For example, emancipated minors do not have the right to vote, buy cigarettes or go to bars. Also, emancipated minors will not be tried as adults if charged with a crime.

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