Teen Emancipation


Let’s face it—many adults make terrible parents. Sometimes, a teenager would be better off without the harmful, toxic involvement of his or her parents. Emancipation can be one answer to the problem. In Minnesota, “emancipation” means that a minor has the same legal rights and Minor obligations as an eighteen-year-old adult. It can also be “partial, conditional … or limited as to time or purpose.” Sonnenberg v. County of Hennepin, 99 N.W.2d 444, 447-48 (Minn. 1959).

The parents of emancipated children are released of their legal duty to financially support their children. Emancipated minors are still subject to the law based on their age (i.e. they cannot buy alcohol or cigarettes, must be off the streets by curfew, are not able to vote and will be considered truant if they don’t attend school), however, emancipation allows them to function independently in an economic sense (i.e. sign a lease for an apartment, get credit). MN statutes recognize several rights for emancipated children, including:

  • an emancipated minor may forego immunization because of religious belief (Minn. Stat. § 121A.15, subd. 3(d))
  • an emancipated minor is allowed to own a passenger auto or truck (Minn. Stat. § 168.101, subd. 1)
  • a legally emancipated minor is eligible for General Assistance (Minn. Stat. § 256D.05, subd. 1(a)(10))
  • an existing guardianship may be discharged upon a showing that the child is emancipated (Minn. Stat. § 260C.328)

Minnesota law does not provide a distinct process for minors to become emancipated from their parents. However, a court can use its discretion to declare that a child is emancipated by applying certain factors, but there is no way to predict how a court will rule on the issue. The law is complicated in this area because it seeks to protect both the parents and the children. Emancipation can be expected to occur:

  1. by reaching the age of eighteen,
  2. by lawful marriage (Lundstrom v. Mample 285 N.W. 83 (Minn. 1939)),
  3. by implied or express parental consent (In re Fiihr 184 N.W.2d 22 (Minn. 1971)), or
  4. by court order.

Emancipation is often a complicated and confusing process, and there may be other legal options that may be more effective for your situation.

Other Options Besides Emancipation

Children in Need of Protective Services (CHIPS)

For a child age sixteen or older who is the subject of a “child in need of protective services” petition, the Juvenile Court may authorize an independent living situation for the child that is the equivalent of emancipation. Minn. Stat. § 260C.201, subd. 1(a)(5). Alternatively, if the child wants to be parented in another home, an adult from a home can go to court for an order giving them custody of the child. The other alternative is foster care. Ultimately, the court will decide which supervision is appropriate.

Delegation of Parental Authority (DOPA)

There is a DOPA form that can be filled to pass on parental authority to another party.

Order for Protection (OFP)

For emotionally, physically, or sexually abused individuals, an OFP can be filed with a court by the victim or a third party at no charge. You will get a hearing before a judge, and he will decide, based on testimony and evidence, the appropriate course of action. In an OFP hearing, the judge will not necessarily give you what you ask, but will decide what is appropriate from his own discretion.

A letter stating emancipation

Some problems (e.g., getting a lease for an apartment) may be resolved by a statement by your parent saying that you are emancipated or a letter from a lawyer which contains the legal conclusion that you should be considered emancipated.

Other Minnesota Emancipation Resources

Steps to Seek Emancipation

If you decide emancipation is the best option for you, the process is to complete legal forms, which are commonly known as “emancipation papers” or “emancipation forms,” and file them with the court. Then the court will hold a hearing, where the person seeking emancipation attends. On average, court and attorney fees total $3,000. If parents contest the emancipation petition, the fees will be higher.

How Much Does an Emancipation Attorney Cost?

Emancipation attorney help is not cheap. Hiring a private attorney may cost $5,000 to $10,000.

However, this page provides a list of volunteer attorneys who provide pro bono services in Minnesota.

Get Help

Often, you need more than help from the courts. You need to talk with someone experienced with your problems or you need to find safety. Here are some additional resources to get help outside of the court system:

Need More Help?

Unfortunately, our attorneys do not do work in this area. This article is informational only. We are unable to respond to your comments and questions. Please use Google to search for another law firm in Minnesota.

Leave a Public Comment

  • Elizabeth
    September 3, 2015, 4:42 am

    Hi I’m lizz, I’m really truing to figure this all out I’m 15 and my mom and her boyfriend treat me like crap my mom has hit me and left bruises and her boyfriend makes fin of my mental health issues and tells me I make it up. The court says my father’s not allowed to see me and I’m trying to figure out how this whole emancipation thing works or how I can move in with my father