Emancipation of a Minor

Last Updated On: 2/17/2016 7:51:32 PM

What does “emancipation” mean?

People under age 18 are called minors. The law says that a minor’s parents or guardians have authority to make decisions for the minor until the minor turns 18. Parents and guardians also have a duty to provide care and financial support to the minor until age 18.

Emancipation is a court process that gives a minor, who is between 16 and 18 years old, legal independence from the minor’s parents or guardians. If an emancipation is granted, the parents or guardians no longer have authority to make decisions for the minor. It also means the parents or guardians no longer have to provide the minor with care or financial support. Generally, a minor who is emancipated is considered an adult and will be responsible for making decisions that parents or guardians typically make.

Who can file for emancipation?

In West Virginia, a minor who is between 16 and 18 years old may file a Petition for Emancipation. The minor must be a resident of West Virginia.

A minor over the age of 16 who gets married is automatically emancipated and does not need to file a Petition. However, if you are between 16 and 18 years old you do need written consent from a parent or guardian to get married.

Are there forms available to file emancipation on my own?

No, there are not forms you can fill out. You can try to write your own Petition. You may need a lawyer to help you. You can apply for help from Legal Aid here.

Who decides if an emancipation should be granted?

The Petition will be decided by a Circuit Court judge. There will be a hearing in front of a judge to talk about your Petition. Only the judge can order the emancipation.

How does a minor prove that the emancipation should be granted?

The minor will have to show that:

  • The minor’s parents or guardians were served with notice of the Petition and hearing;
  • There was a publication in the newspaper as a Class II legal advertisement (once a week for 2 weeks) about the hearing;
  • The minor can manage his or her own financial affairs (show proof of employment or other means of support);
  • The minor can manage his or her own physical well-being (show proof of a place to live); and
  • The minor can make decisions for himself or herself.

How does the judge decide if a minor is ready to be emancipated?

The judge will weigh all of the evidence presented to determine if there is “good cause” to show that the minor should be emancipated. Generally, the judge will look at important things like:

  • Will the minor graduate from high school or get a GED?
  • Where will the minor live?
  • How will the minor support himself/herself?
  • If the minor has a child, how will he/she support the child?
  • If the minor has a child, what kind of child care will be provided while the minor is at work or in school?

What rights does an emancipated minor have?

If a minor is emancipated by a judge, the minor will have rights and responsibilities that most other minors do not have. The minor will have the right to make agreements or sign contracts on his or her own. But the minor will also be responsible for living up to those agreements. The minor will have the responsibility of getting a place to live. But the minor will also be responsible for the rent and costs. The minor will have the right to get medical care without a parent’s permission. But the minor will have to pay for medical care.

Are there rights that an emancipated minor does not have?

An emancipated minor does not have the right to vote, purchase alcohol or do many other things that the law limits to older people for health and safety reasons.

Where can I find West Virginia laws on emancipation?

West Virginia Code § 49-4-115 explains the emancipation requirements. You can read the law here.

This is general legal information. For guidance about your situation, talk to a lawyer.