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:
- The parental need for the earnings of the petitioner;
- The petitioner's ability to function as an adult;
- The petitioner's need to contract as an adult or to marry;
- The employment status of the petitioner and the stability of the petitioner's living arrangements;
- The extent of family discord which may threaten reconciliation of the petitioner with the petitioner's family;
- The petitioner's rejection of parental supervision or support; and
- 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:
- 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.