What is the emancipation of a minor? 

The term “emancipation” of a minor means the freeing of a person under the age of majority from legal obligations to parents or guardians. Likewise, parents of an emancipated child are released from legal obligations to that child and they will no longer have authority over that child. Emancipation automatically occurs when a person reaches the age of majority or when a teenager marries or enlists in the armed forces. 

Minnesota statutes do not specifically define emancipation or create a legal process by which a minor may become emancipated. However, emancipation as a legal principle has long been recognized by Minnesota courts. The courts must examine each case individually to determine whether emancipation is appropriate based upon the particular circumstances in the case. Courts have made their emancipation decisions based on factors such as: 

  • the existence of a letter written by the parent to the child saying they agree that the child is on his or her own 
  • the existence of a formal document drafted by an attorney 
  • the parent’s action or inaction in permitting the young person to live independently 
  • whether the young person has been living away from home, is self- supporting, and is not living under parental control. 

There is no guarantee that a child is emancipated until a court decides that it has occurred. In some cases, a parent believed he or she had emancipated a child and a court has decided otherwise. 

Can the juvenile court emancipate a child? 

Juvenile court statutes allow a court to order a child into independent living as a result of a “child in need of protection or services” (CHIPS) action. Such actions may be brought by the county, or if the county refuses to provide services when asked or refuses to file the petition, a private person may also file the petition. In CHIPS actions, rather than ordering the child into independent living, the juvenile court may place the child in foster care. 

An attorney could also attempt to request emancipation through a declaratory judgment-type action on behalf of a young person or his or her parent. 

When is it important to decide if a juvenile is emancipated? 

This may be important when determining whether a young person can sue or be sued, leave home to live independently, receive General Assistance, authorize medical care, sign a contract or a lease, set up a utility account, or register a car. 

Must a young person be emancipated in order to request medical care? 

No. In certain circumstances Minnesota allows minors to request medical care without parental consent. Minors of any age may request medical care relating to pregnancy, childbirth, venereal disease, and drug and alcohol abuse. Teenagers who have given birth may give consent for medical care for that child and for themselves. Minors living away from home and managing their own financial affairs (no matter what their source of support) may give consent for medical care for themselves. No other person’s consent is required. In giving consent under these circumstances, the individual is also responsible for the costs. 

Have more questions?

You may wish to contact Mid Minnesota Legal Aid’s Youth Law Project to see if you are eligible for free assistance here.  Or visit Law Help MN to read additional articles on Youth Law from our partnering agencies here.