There is an entire legal process that occurs when a minor wants to become responsible for his or her own self. This process is referred to as emancipation. Yet, to qualify for emancipation, the minor needs to meet certain requirements set out by the legislature of a state. In Utah, the procedure is discussed in section 78A-6-804 of the Utah Code. Here, we’ll take a look at some of the general requirements to file a successful emancipation petition.
Meeting the Initial Requirements
A state's emancipation laws dictate what requirements must be satisfied. Utah requires that a minor must be at least 16 years or older, be capable of handling financial matters and capable of living alone.
Other states have slightly different requirements. For example, a minor qualifies to petition for emancipation in California once he or she reaches the age of 14. Some states, like Alabama, sets the age limit at 18. Some jurisdictions also allow minors to forgo the emancipation process altogether if they are members of the military, legally married or declared emancipated by another state.
Preparing the Petition
To start the emancipation process, one must file a petition with the court. This petition will state that the legal requirements have been satisfied. According to Utah Code section 78A-6-803, the parents or guardians of the minor must also receive legal notice of the filing. Additionally, it may be necessary to serve the Office of the Attorney General.
The Court Procedure
Once the petitioner (minor) submits his or her petition, the court performs the next steps. First, the petition is reviewed for completeness. If there is a determination that the petition is deficient, the petitioner may have to resubmit it. In cases where the age requirement is not met, the court will likely dismiss the action. However, if the petition is complete and the requirements are met, the court can schedule a hearing within a 30 day period.
Due to the young age of the minor, the court can appoint a guardian ad litem. This is an attorney who will advocate for the best interests of the child. The guardian ad litem may meet with the minor to discuss the case and will be present at all hearings in the matter.
During the main hearing, the court will try to determine if emancipation is in the minor’s best interests. Again, the court will review the requirements for the process and decide whether they have been met. Most importantly, the judge will consider whether emancipation will cause harm to the minor. The court will use the legal standard of clear and convincing evidence to come to a final decision.
Understanding the Effects of Emancipation
There are some general misunderstandings about what emancipation allows a minor to do. First of all, it does not mean that the minor can engage in any type of adult activity. Emancipated minors are still prohibited from smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol, possessing firearms and voting in elections. Minors are also still considered as juveniles in the criminal justice system.
However, there are some important legal ramifications once a minor becomes emancipated. Emancipation gives minors the authority to live on their own. Furthermore, these minors can enter into contracts and own property in their own name. They can also obtain and manage their own healthcare. In addition, an emancipated person can be directly involved in a lawsuit.
Getting Help With an Emancipation Issue
Whether you are a minor seeking emancipation, or a concerned parent, you can use the help of a family law attorney during this process. Speak with an experienced attorney at Spencer and Jensen PLLC for help. The firm can also assist with grandparents' rights, visitation rights and child custody issues.