In Florida, children under the age of 18 are minors, which has many legal ramifications. Perhaps the most important is that parents are required to provide financially for their minor children and have the right to control them. Emancipation gives a minor the rights and duties associated with adulthood and relieves parents of the control and right to care for their children. If you need advice or assistance regarding emancipation in Florida, an attorney can discuss your options with you.Automatic Emancipation
Emancipation means that a person legally becomes an adult, with all the associated rights and responsibilities. Emancipation occurs automatically upon reaching age 18 or upon marriage. But in Florida, minors under the age of 18 cannot marry without parental consent. If they are under 16, parental consent is not sufficient; the female must be pregnant and a judge must approve the marriage.Petitions for Emancipation
A minor may also petition the court for emancipation if he or she is at least 16 years old. A parent or guardian must file the petition, or, if the minor has none, a guardian ad litem. In the petition, the minor must show:
- That the minor can support him or herself, and any child he or she has;
- That the minor is not dependent on public assistance;
- A specific plan for the minor’s self-support, including food, shelter, clothing, and health care;
- The reasons that emancipation is necessary; and
- Evidence that emancipation is in the minor’s best interests.
A guardian ad litem, appointed by the court, represents the minor throughout the proceedings. At a court hearing, if the court determines that emancipation is in the child’s best interests, then it will grant the petition. The minor may use copies of the court order as proof of emancipation.Teen Parents
A minor is not emancipated simply by having a child. But underage parents do have certain rights. A minor parent may:
- Seek a child support order for the child;
- Consent to medical care for the child;
- For minor pregnant mothers, consent to her own medical care for the pregnancy; and
- Consent to the child’s adoption.
Emancipation gives a minor the legal capacity to act as an adult. Emancipated minors have the right to make their own decisions, and their parents can no longer control them. But emancipated minors’ parents are also no longer obligated to provide for them. A non-custodial parent can petition the court to terminate a child support order if the child becomes emancipated. Emancipation does not affect the enforcement of certain age-related laws, such as smoking and voting ages.Child Support
Even though children are generally emancipated once they reach the age of 18, meaning that parents no longer have a legal duty to provide for them, there is sometimes an exception involving child support. Child support in Florida does not necessarily automatically terminate once the child reaches 18. If the child is still in high school, performing in good faith, and has a reasonable expectation of graduation before reaching age 19, the court may require a non-custodial parent to continue child support payments while the child is between the ages of 18 and 19.
Emancipation has a serious and permanent impact on minors who are emancipated, so if you are considering emancipation, it is essential to consult with an attorney to make sure you understand the full consequences. Please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a free consultation.