When a minor is emancipated, he or she becomes independence from any parental authority and, as such, becomes legally competent to enter into contracts or manage personal affairs. By operation of law, emancipation of a minor occurs automatically under ANY of the following conditions:
- The minor is validly married. MCL 722.4(2)(a).
- The minor reaches 18 years of age. MCL 722.4(2)(b).
- The minor is on active duty with the armed forces of the United States. MCL 722.4(2)(c).
- A minor is emancipated for the purposes of consenting to certain medical procedures if the child is in the custody if a law enforcement agency AND the minor's parent or guardian cannot be promptly located. MCL 722.4(2)(d).
- A minor is emancipated for the purposes of consenting to certain medical procedures if the child is in the custody of the Michigan Department of Corrections AND the minor's parent or guardian cannot be promptly located. MCL 722.4(2)(e).
In addition, it is also possible for a minor to file a petition with the circuit court in his or her county of residence to acquire a court order of emancipation from all parents and guardians even if he or she is underage, unmarried and not on active duty. A judge can issue an emancipation order if the minor can prove by a preponderance of the evidence ALL OF THE FOLLOWING:
- That the minor's parent or guardian does not object to the petition; OR if a parent or guardian objects to the petition, that the objecting parent or guardian is not providing the minor with support. MCL 722.4c(2)(a). A parent who agrees to the emancipation can execute a Waiver and Consent form (pc561) that can be filed with the petition. If the parents do not agree, the court will not grant the emancipation unless the minor can prove that his or her parents fail to provide support for housing, food, education or medical care.
- That the minor is at least 16 years of age. MCL 722.4c(2)(b).
- That the minor is a resident of the state. MCL 722.4c(2)(c).
- That the minor has demonstrated the ability to manage his or her financial affairs, including proof of employment or other means of support. MCL 722.4c(2)(d). The minor may have to produce proof that he or she has a job, has a bank account, has sufficient income to pay bills, and has money in savings. However, "means of support" does not include welfare or public assistance.
- That the minor has the ability to manage his or her personal and social affairs, including, but not limited to, proof of housing. MCL 722.4c(2)(e). The minor may have to produce proof that he or she has stable housing, has a support network of family and friends, is not neglecting educational requirements and has the capacity to handle medical care.
- That the minor understands his or her rights and responsibilities under this act as an emancipated minor. MCL 722.4c(2)(f). The minor will be required to tell the judge under oath that he or she has read the emancipation statute and understands the legal consequences.
- That emancipation is in the minor's best interests.
A minor wishing to be emancipated must complete Form PC 100 (Petition for Emancipation, Affidavit and Waiver of Notice) to file with the circuit court and be prepared to provide the following information:
- The minor's full name and birth date, and the county and state where the minor was born. MCL 722.4a(1)(a).
- A certified copy of the minor's birth certificate. This can be obtained from the county clerk's office where the child was born. MCL 722.4a(1)(b).
- The name and last known address of the minor's parents, guardian, or custodian. MCL 722.4a(1)(c). They must all be served with a copy of the petition and a summons to appear at the hearing.
- The minor's present address, and length of residency at that address. MCL 722.4a(1)(d).
- A declaration by the minor indicating that he or she has demonstrated the ability to manage his or her financial affairs. The minor may include any information he or she considers necessary to support the declaration. MCL 722.4a(1)(e).
- A declaration by the minor indicating that he or she has the ability to manage his or her personal and social affairs. The minor may include in this section any information he or she considers necessary to support the declaration. MCL 722.4a(1)(f).
- The petition must include an affidavit by a physician, nurse, clergyman, psychologist, family therapist, social worker, school administrator, school counselor, teacher, law enforcement officer, or duly regulated child care provider declaring that the individual has personal knowledge of the minor's circumstances and believes that under those circumstances emancipation is in the best interests of the minor. MCL 722.4a(2).
After the petition is filed, the court can take one of the following actions:
- Assign an employee of the court to investigate the allegations of the petition and to file a report containing the results of the investigation with the court. MCL 722.4b(a).
- Appoint legal counsel for the minor. MCL 722.4b(b).
- Appoint legal counsel for the minor's parents or guardian if they are indigent and if they oppose the petition. MCL 722.4b(c).
- Dismiss the petition if the minor's custodial parent does not consent and is providing support. MCL 722.4b(d).
If the minor is successful in obtaining an emancipation order, he or she is considered to have the rights and responsibilities of an adult, except for those specific constitutional and statutory age requirements regarding voting, use of alcoholic beverages, and other health and safety regulations relevant to him or her because of his or her age. These includes, but are not limited to, the following:
- The right to enter into enforceable contracts, including apartment leases. MCL 722.4e(1)(a).
- The right to sue or be sued in his or her own name. MCL 722.4e(1)(b).
- The right to retain his or her own earnings. MCL 722.4e(1)(c).
- The right to establish a separate domicile. MCL 722.4e(1)(d).
- The right to act autonomously, and with the rights and responsibilities of an adult, in all business relationships, including, but not limited to, property transactions and obtaining accounts for utilities, except for those estate or property matters that the court determines may require a conservator or guardian ad litem. MCL 722.4e(1)(e).
- The right to earn a living, subject only to the health and safety regulations designed to protect those under the age of majority regardless of their legal status. MCL 722.4e(1)(f).
- The right to authorize his or her own preventive health care, medical care, dental care, and mental health care, without parental knowledge or liability. MCL 722.4e(1)(g).
- The right to apply for a driver's license or other state licenses for which he or she might be eligible. MCL 722.4e(1)(h).
- The right to register for school. MCL 722.4e(1)(i).
- The right to marry. MCL 722.4e(1)(j).
- The right to apply to the medical assistance program administered under the social welfare act, Act No. 280 of the Public Acts of 1939, being sections 400.1 to 400.121 of the Michigan Compiled Laws, if needed. MCL 722.4e(1)(k).
- The right to apply for other welfare assistance, including general assistance and aid to families with dependent children administered under Act No. 280 of the Public Acts of 1939, if needed. MCL 722.4e(1)(l).
- The right, if a parent, to make decisions and give authority in caring for his or her own minor child. MCL 722.4e(1)(m).
- The right to make a will. MCL 722.4e(1)(n).
Even after an emancipation order is granted, the minor or his or her parents and guardians may file a petition to rescind the court order, and the circuit court judge may grant an order of rescission, if ANY of the following conditions apply:
- That the minor is indigent and has no means of support. MCL 722.4d(3)(a).
- That the minor and the minor's parents agree that the order should be rescinded. MCL 722.4d(3)(b).
- That there is a resumption of family relations inconsistent with the existing emancipation order. For example, if the minor moves back in with his or her parents and it appears he or she is being supported as an unemancipated minor, then the spirit of the original court order is certainly defeated. MCL 722.4d(3)(c).
Note that a rescission has no effect if the minor also becomes emancipated by operation of law by turning 18 years old, getting married or serving in active duty with the U.S. military.
Parents and guardians of a minor emancipated by court order (whether they agreed to it or opposed it) should be aware that they remain jointly and severally obligated to support the minor. However, the parents of a minor emancipated by court order are not liable for any debts incurred by the minor during the period of emancipation. MCL 722.4e(2). The minor, parents or guardians may appeal any court order arising out of a petition for emancipation or rescission to the Michigan Court of Appeals.
The decision to pursue an emancipation order is not to be taken lightly. Many teenagers may be eager to seek independence from their parents but may not understand the profound effects that come with adult responsibilities too soon. It is well advised to speak to an experienced attorney before taking the plunge into such a drastic life change.
If you or a loved one have questions about emancipation or any aspect of family law, do not hesitate to contact the lawyers at Keshaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC today.