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When children divorce their parents

Divorce between adults is commonplace in America. Media routinely report contentious divorce actions among high-profile people and inform the public of acrimonious child custody battles.

Media seldom feature news of children seeking to become emancipated, the legal term for a minor child "divorcing" his or her parents. Many people may not be familiar with emancipation law. They believe parents are strictly responsible for their minor children until they reach the age of majority: 18 years old in most states. The truth, though, is that minor children can seek to become legally independent before this age.

How can a minor child become emancipated?

According to the Nevada Judicial Emancipation of Minors statute, a child can seek a decree of emancipation at the age of 16. Only a judge can grant this decree. The child must correctly file a written form requesting emancipation, and notify the parent(s) or legal guardians.

When the child correctly meets filing requirements and pays filing fees, the court will schedule an emancipation hearing. At that time, the parent(s) will be present and the minor child must demonstrate to the court that he or she is financially independent, attends school if required, is mature, responsible and does not engage in illegal activity.  

What responsibility does emancipation confer on the child?

When the court grants a minor child a decree of emancipation, the child can decide to obtain medical procedures, where to live, and to take on debt, all without parental permission. The minor child is legally an adult, with a few limitations, such as waiting until he or she reaches the state's legal age to drink, drive, marry or discontinue public education.

Can parents stop their child from becoming emancipated?

The court will hear the parent(s) wishes and take relevant concerns under advisement, but unless the minor has given fraudulent information to the court or is obviously incompetent to live unsupervised, the parent cannot usually stop a child from receiving a decree of emancipation. If, however, the child becomes impoverished, the parent may file to void the emancipation decree. 

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