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Becoming an Emancipated Minor

Aug. 24, 2012
Personal Finance
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My parents are, like, SUPER mean—they make me wash the dishes, do my homework, and make my bed even though no one else is going to see it. They wouldn’t let me go on a date with Tommy Wahl, even when I promised that we’d just hold hands and maybe kiss without tongue. Worst of all, they want me to get a part-time job! I’m so sick of everyone telling me what to do. How can I divorce my parents so I can live on my own?

Unfortunately for you (and, perhaps, your poor, long-suffering parents), you can’t divorce your family—but you can become an emancipated minor, meaning that you’re recognized as a legal adult by the state. By following in the footsteps of celebrity success stories like Courtney Love and Macauley Culkin, you can prove your ability to take care of yourself and live on your own—but do you really want to?

The rules for becoming an emancipated minor vary state by state, but most have similar requirements. There are three general ways of emancipating yourself:

–       Marriage, with approval from your parents and the court. I wouldn’t recommend this one—if you think cleaning your own room is bad, imagine having to clean up after your husband!

–       Joining the armed forces, with parental consent and acceptance into the service. This option probably requires a little too much bed-making for your taste.

–       Petitioning for a declaration of emancipation by a judge. If you don’t like doing your math homework, you’re definitely not going to like all the paperwork this requires.

While your parents should consent to your emancipation, since it sounds like you’re a real pain in the butt around the house, they most likely won’t—that means you’ll have to go to a hearing and prove to a judge that you can support yourself. The goal is to show you can provide for yourself financially while still observing child labor laws. Assuming you’re not a millionaire celebrity, that means it’s time you take that burger flipping job your parents were talking about!

If you think emancipation will get you out of schoolwork, Penny’s here to set you straight. Not only will you have to stay in school and follow all truancy laws, you’ll have to wake yourself up early, make your own strawberry-slice smiley face on your pancake stack, and write your own note to tuck into your lunchbox.

Even if a judge is crazy enough to grant you emancipation, the benefits won’t outweigh the drawbacks. Once you’re emancipated, your parents are no longer financially responsible for you in any way—that means you’re responsible for all of your food, shelter, medical care, and One Direction tickets. While you’ll be able to go the movies with Tommy, you still can’t drive until 16, drink until 21, or vote until 18. And if you break the law, you’ll be tried as an adult.

Instead of trying to emancipate, Miss Penny recommends that you listen to your parents and get a part-time job. If you start saving your money now, you can afford your own place when you turn 18, at which point you’ll be automatically emancipated from your parents. Don’t forget to send me another letter when you’re trying to figure out how to pay your own bills!

Child image via Shutterstock