Can Teenagers Be Emancipated From Their Parents?

Posted by Josh Valentine | Feb 21, 2020

It can be difficult being a teenager who feels independent in most of their day-to-day life but is still subject to the rules of living in their parent's household. Until an individual turns 18 years old, they are generally under their parent's legal and physical custody. Similarly, the parents are legally and financially responsible for their kids until they turn 18. However, in some situations, it may be better for the teen to file for emancipation. 

Emancipation is the legal process to be considered “an adult,” for most legal purposes, before the individual turns 18. To be granted emancipation, the teenager has to file a petition with the court and meet certain requirements. If the judge grants emancipation, the parents will no longer be legally responsible for the teen.

Requirements for Juvenile Emancipation in North Carolina

Under North Carolina General Statutes § 7B-3500, “Any juvenile who is 16 years of age or older and who has resided in the same county in North Carolina or on federal territory within the boundaries of North Carolina for six months next preceding the filing of the petition may petition the court in that county for a judicial decree of emancipation."

After filing a petition, the court will hold a hearing where the juvenile has to show that emancipation is in the juvenile's best interests. Factors in determining whether emancipation should be granted include: 

  1. The parental need for the earnings of the petitioner;
  2. The petitioner's ability to function as an adult;
  3. The petitioner's need to contract as an adult or to marry;
  4. The employment status of the petitioner and the stability of the petitioner's living arrangements;
  5. The extent of family discord which may threaten reconciliation of the petitioner with the petitioner's family;
  6. The petitioner's rejection of parental supervision or support; and
  7. The quality of parental supervision or support. 

Rights and Restrictions for Emancipated Teens

After a teenager is granted emancipation from their parents, they will generally be legally and financially on their own. This frees up the teen to make decisions about where they want to live, what work they want to do, or where to go to school. An emancipated teen can also legally: 

  • Open a bank account, 
  • Open a credit card, 
  • Make a will, 
  • Enter into legally binding contracts, 
  • Buy or sell property, 
  • Consent to medical care, or
  • File a lawsuit. 

However, an emancipated teen is not considered 18 years or older (or 21 years or older) until they reach that legal age. This means an emancipated 17 year old can open a credit card but cannot legally: 

  • Vote
  • Buy a lottery ticket
  • Buy cigarettes
  • Buy alcohol

Should I File for Emancipation if I Can't Get Along with my Parents?

Emancipation should not be your first choice after a disagreement with your parents. Becoming legally emancipated before age 18 is a lot of responsibility. There is often a lot of tension between teenagers and their parents but emancipation is not necessarily the answer. There may be other options for teens having a hard time living with their parents' rules, including: 

  • Family counseling, 
  • Living with a grandparent or other family member, or 
  • Seeking assistance from a state agency if there is abuse. 

North Carolina Family Law Firm 

At Caulder & Valentine Law Firm, PLLC, we have helped young people and parents with juvenile emancipation. If you have any questions about emancipation for teens in North Carolina, contact us today in Shelby for a consultation.

About the Author

Josh Valentine

You could say Josh has a God-given ability for sustaining long-term relationships. He and his wife first met in elementary school and went to Gardner Webb University (GWU) together, where they tied for number 1 in their class. Then, they both started law school on the same day of their graduation and got married during their first semester. He has also known his law partner Blake Caulder since Kindergarten. Theirs is the perfect partnership. “He’s the brake; I am the accelerator,” Josh says. Both Josh and his wife attended an innovative program at Charlotte Law School that allowed them to complete law school in two years instead of the typical three. His wife graduated and passed the North Carolina bar at age 20, becoming one of the youngest attorneys in the state. He readily admits she’s smarter than him. Of course, Josh went on to pass the North Carolina State Bar himself and later the South Carolina State Bar. While in school, he was Associate Editor of the Law Review and received accolades like Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honor Society membership, Order of the Crown, Pro Bono Honors, CALI Awards (highest grade). In his career as a lawyer, he has been admitted to the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, is a member of the American Association of Premier DUI Attorneys, and completed training for DWI Detection & Standardized Field Sobriety Testing. Josh has also been named to the Top 40 Under 40 for Criminal Defense by The National Trial Lawyers, the Business North Carolina 2019 Legal Elite for Criminal Defense, and the 10 Best Attorneys for Client Satisfaction by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys three years in a row (2016, 2017, and 2018). Community involvement has been important to Josh all his life. In high school, he participated in building a Holocaust museum that has become internationally regarded. He and his wife are actively engaged in animal rescue, which currently means seven cats and two kittens. He served in prison ministry and assisted with fundraiser banquets there, and he provides pro bono and reduced fee legal services to those in need. As if all of that weren’t enough, Josh also mentors high risk youth and helps with his church’s youth group. He participates in other community volunteer projects involving construction, remodeling, drywall, painting, and landscaping. He’s an active student of the Bible and has traveled to Israel, Brazil, and Europe for mission work. No one can say Josh isn’t a well-rounded individual. In his spare time, he likes to play softball, basketball, and tennis, and he can play the piano and trombone. Sometimes on weekends, believe it or not, he enjoys pouring and finishing concrete with friends who own a concrete and grading business. In his law practice, Josh has made it a point to develop positive relationships with officers, clerks, and district attorneys, which has proven invaluable in delivering positive results for his clients. It’s important to him to both listen to his clients and fight for them. Law enforcement officers have important responsibilities to keep our communities safe and uphold the law, but one of the responsibilities of attorneys is to make sure officers do their job correctly. Josh considers it his job to hold them accountable for their actions. Josh is a person of deep faith. He knows that the established order of our universe and strength of America’s Judeo-Christian influenced court system is built on God’s word. His passion to serve each client with innovation, excellence and integrity is a byproduct of his faith. When asked why he became a lawyer, Josh says, “All through my life, I have personally witnessed family members and very close friends endure divorce, child custody battles, bankruptcy, civil lawsuits, and even fraudulent criminal accusations. I both saw and experienced the stress such events can place on an individual, and I realized that everyone, at some point in their life, needs hope, comfort, and encouragement. In each one of those situations, the person who was best situated to provide that vital support was their lawyer. So that’s why I became an attorney. I understand what you are going through, and I’m here to help you. Our office is focused on meeting your needs and guiding you through what may be the most difficult time of your life.” Education: Charlotte School of Law J.D., Magna Cum Laude Class Rank – 21 of 328 Associate Editor of Charlotte School of Law Law Review Certification and Concentration in Employment Law Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honor Society Order of the Crown Pro Bono Honors CALI Awards (Highest Grade)—Lawyering Process I and Contracts I Full Scholarship Gardner-Webb University B.S. in Accounting, Summa Cum Laude Distinguished Senior Student Award – Highest GPA Alpha Sigma Lambda National Honorary Society Bar Admissions: North Carolina State Bar