Parents are legally responsible for their children and are required to provide food, clothing, educational opportunities and act in their best interests. However, anyone over 16 years old in New Jersey can become emancipated from their parents.
Emancipation requires the consent of a court. Once granted, this means parents are no longer accountable for the well-being of the child, who can no longer rely on money, insurance or any other financial support.
What are the benefits?
Minors seek to be free of their parents for many reasons, such as getting married, having a child, starting a full-time job or going into the military. For these individuals, the benefits include:
- Entering into contracts, such as leases, rental and purchase agreements
- Enrolling in a school of their choice
- Applying for public benefits
- Keeping all income they earn
- Making their own health care decisions
- The ability to sue others
Factors considered by a court
New Jersey courts examine emancipation requests based on all the circumstances regarding each case. Children must convince the judge they are both socially and financially independent from their parents and are free from their influence. Other factors include:
- What are the child’s needs?
- What interests does the child have?
- What financial resources does the child have?
- What other capabilities does the child have to live on their own?
- What are the family’s expectations?
Children aren’t automatically emancipated at 18
While children are usually considered adults when they reach 18 — the “age of majority” in New Jersey – there is no set age that triggers emancipation if children have not yet reached an independent status, and still rely on parents for support.
Determine whether emancipation is an option
Emancipation is drastic, but it can be a constructive step for minors who have been abused, neglected or abandoned by their parents or guardians. Courts typically are unwilling to consider cases where children have trouble getting along with their parents. If you have questions, an experienced family law attorney can help you determine whether it’s an appropriate course of action.