What is Teenager Emancipation in Virginia?
Until someone is 18 years old, they have not reached the legal age of majority. This means that parents or legal guardians have the right to custody and control of their children. This includes the legal responsibility to provide their children with the basic necessities like food, clothing, shelter, education, medical care, etc. They are also legally responsible if their child breaks any laws — until the reach the age of majority.
However, there may be some circumstances wherein a child wants to be declared an adult prior to turning 18. This is what’s known as emancipation. The parent or legal guardian might pursue an emancipation as well. It is not a process that is limited to the teenager starting it. Whoever starts the proceeding just has to convince the court that being emancipated is in the child’s best interests.
Process of Emancipation in Virginia
To become emancipated in Virginia, any minor child who is at least 16 can petition the court by filing with the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court in the county where the minor or his or her parents reside. The court will then put the parents on notice, and they become respondents in the process.
Next, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem, who will be a licensed attorney who has special training and is approved by the court in order to serve as the child’s legal representative. The court may also decide there is reason for the Department of Social Services or the Department of Welfare to investigate any allegations in the petition.
Reasons the Court May Find for Emancipation
Following the hearing, the court may declare the emancipation granted under Virginia Code Section 16.1-331 if one of the following conditions apply:
- The minor is on active duty in a branch of the United States armed services;
- The minor has entered into a valid marriage, whether or not it has since been dissolved; or
- The minor willingly lives apart and separate from his or her parents or guardian, with their consent, and the minor is capable of supporting and managing his or her own financial affairs.
What are the Legal Ramifications of Emancipation?
Being emancipated can mean a number of different things. Once emancipated, the child will have the legal right to:
- Establish his or her own housing;
- Purchase and/or sell real estate;
- Marry without parental consent;
- Enter into a binding contract; or
- Enroll into a school or college of his or her own choice.
Because the parents or legal guardians will no longer be responsible for the emancipated child, they will have no legal obligations for support or regarding school attendance.
Contact a Virginia Family Law Attorney
The subject of child emancipation can be a complex one. There are a number of steps as well as potential legal repercussions that need to be discussed with a Virginia family law attorney. To understand more about child emancipation, contact Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC at 703-997-4982 to schedule a consultation. Let one of our family law attorneys answer all your questions about this and any other family law matters.