January 3, 2002
By: Susan Price-Livingston, Associate Attorney
You asked about procedures minors can use to become emancipated from their parents.
With a few exceptions, emancipation gives minors the same legal rights as adults, at the same time ending their parents' responsibility to support and control them. It occurs automatically when a child turns age 18. And a common law (non-statutory) doctrine emancipates children whose parents allow them to form a new relationship (such as marrying) that is inconsistent with ongoing parental control.
Connecticut also has an emancipation statute, which is independent of common law. Under the statute, a 16- or 17-year-old living in Connecticut (or his parents or guardian) can file a petition asking a judge to declare him emancipated. Courts must give the child's parents or guardian legal notice and order them and the child to attend a hearing. The statutory grounds for emancipation are (1) marriage (even if the child has since divorced); (2) active U. S. military service; (3) the child is willingly living apart from his parents or guardians (with or without their consent) and is managing his own financial affairs, regardless of the lawful source of his income; or (4) a good cause showing that emancipation is in the best interests of the minor or his child or the minor's parents or guardian.
We enclose copies of the statutes (CGS §§ 46b-150 - 150e).
People can file emancipation petitions in the juvenile or probate court where the child or either parent or guardian lives. Petitions must be signed under oath (verified) and include (1) the facts that bring the child within the court's jurisdiction; (2) his name, date of birth, sex, and address; (3) parents' or guardian's names and addresses; and (4) the petitioner's name and relationship to the child.
We enclose a copy of the juvenile court form that is used for this purpose.
Post-petition procedures differ slightly depending on whether the filing is in a probate or juvenile court. By law, probate courts must hold a hearing within 30 days of receiving an emancipation petition. Judges must (1) ask the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to investigate, but they may waive this when they find cause to do so and (2) appoint a lawyer to represent the child. If they find that reasonable cause warrants it, they may also appoint a doctor or mental health professional to examine the child. They may do this at any time in the proceeding on their own authority or if any party requests it. Probate judges may also order the examination of a parent or guardian when there is a dispute about his mental competency or ability to care for the child.
There is no statutory deadline for holding juvenile court emancipation hearings. And juvenile court judges may, but are not required to, (1) order any person, including probation officers and DCF employees, to conduct investigations; (2) appoint a lawyer for the child who may also act as his guardian ad litem (i. e. , represent both the child's legal and best personal interests); (3) appoint a lawyer for the parents or guardian; and (4) make other appropriate orders (CGS § 46b-150a).
EFFECT OF EMANCIPATION
By law, an emancipated minor may:
1. get medical, dental, and psychiatric care without parental notice or permission;
2. sign and be bound by contracts and legal releases;
3. sue and be sued in his own name;
4. control his own earnings;
5. establish his own residence;
6. buy and sell property; and
7. enroll in school or college, enlist in the military, and obtain a driver's license without parental consent.
DCF cannot pursue abuse or neglect petitions involving emancipated minors. And emancipation relieves the minor's parents of (1) guardianship (including the duties to support, care for, and control the child); (2) legal duties to enforce school attendance rules; and (3) liability for damages caused by the minor's acts (CGS § 46b-150d).