Legal emancipation laws differ from state to state, sometimes depending on the unique situation. In Florida, statutory law defines a minor as anybody who hasn’t reached their eighteenth birthday. However, in certain situations minors may become legally emancipated and treated as legal adults for either specific purposes or across the spectrum of legal adulthood. Any minor may petition the court through a parent, guardian, or legal guardian ad litem for legal emancipation for all purposes if they are sixteen years or older. It is recognized, in some situations, that minors may legally emancipate themselves, and be treated as legal adults, but it can be a complicated and difficult process. When a family goes through challenging times and hard decisions must be made, it’s important to have a professional who is versed in Orlando family law there to guide them through the process in order to make the best decisions for all parties involved. These decisions are ones that will have a lifelong impact on everybody involved, so hiring a family law attorney can be the best course of action for optimal mediation and direction. The Law Office of Frederic E. Waczewski, P.A. has over a decade of experience in family law, and hold not only valuable insight regarding what is involved in these cases, but can also inform our clients on all of the available opportunities they can choose and educate them on the various long and short-term consequences of each. Call us today for a free initial consultation regarding your legal situation.


Situations for Legal Emancipation


When a child sixteen years or older is financially independent of their parents, it is likely under Florida law that they will be granted emancipation. Legal emancipation immediately relieves the minor’s parents from all obligations, financial and otherwise, for the child in question. There are also cases under Florida statutory law where you can become legally emancipated for certain purposes but not across the full legal adult spectrum of privileges. These statutory laws allow the minors to give or refuse legal consent to certain situations. For example, an unwed minor mother of any age above or below sixteen can give legal consent to medical care related to her pregnancy or for her child. Another case in Florida is that a seventeen-year-old minor may legally consent to donate blood towards any cause. If a sixteen year old needs to borrow money for higher educational purposes, they are able to legally sign the necessary documents. Moreover, a minor of any age who is married or has been married is considered a legal adult in Florida, although the legal marriage age in Florida is currently 16, with legislative movement towards 17. It’s important to stay current on statutory laws, as they can change and what is legal at one time may not be at another, so when making important legal decisions it is crucial to speak to an attorney like the Law Office of Frederic E. Waczewski, P.A.


On the other side of the spectrum, Florida statutory law does extend the age of minority beyond age 18 in certain cases involving ongoing child support. These payments are extended in the situation that the child is still in high school. Child support payments must be continued for an eighteen to nineteen year old who is still enrolled in high school and performing reasonable with expectations of graduation by the age of 19. Also, dependency and thus ongoing child support payments can be extended beyond age 18 if the child in question has a physical or mental incapacity that began before age 18.


Process of Emancipation


The process where a minor child under the age of 18 is legally declared an adult by a judge is temed legal emancipation. A minor is able to petition the court to be emancipated if they are at least 16 years old, married or living separate and apart from his or her parents and supporting themselves, and if they are a resident of the county in which they are filing for emancipation. What do judges look at when determining such cases? There are many factors for them to consider when deciding on whether or not to legally emancipate a child. The judge will closely examine several aspects in the legal paperwork, and will generally ask the parties involved to expound about these aspects as well. Factors include whether the parents/legal guardians consent and whether the minor is able to support him/herself without financial assistance. Financial independence is usually a huge consideration in these cases, as the judge will find it unusual and irresponsible to allow a child who cannot support themselves to be on their own, or to release the parents of a financially dependent minor from provisional obligations. Other aspects are whether the minor is mature and knowledgeable enough to manage their own affairs, and whether emancipation is really in the minor’s best interest. Emancipation is supposed to be for the betterment of a minor’s situation, so the judge will want to ensure the responsibility of the minor in question. To present your best possible case, especially as a minor, it is crucial to seek guidance from an attorney. Orlando family Law Office of Frederic E. Waczewski, P.A. will help file the best possible claim for your case, and also mediate potential conflicts to find the best resolution for your situation.


There are a series of steps that a minor seeking emancipation must follow to petition the court. Firstly, they must complete a Civil Cover Sheet, Petition for Emancipation, and Notice of Hearing in order to open a case. If the situation is such that a parent or legal guardian consents to the emancipation, then that legal guardian must also complete a Consent to Emancipation form. The Civil Cover Sheet provides basic information about the “petitioner,” and the Clerk of Court utilizes that information to open the case in court. The Petition for Emancipation is the legal form requesting emancipation, and will include information regarding our parents, legal guardians, schooling, and current state of employment. As you fill out the papers above, you need to file all of the documents with the family court to open up your case. The filing fee varies from state to state, and is payable by cash, money order, or most major credit/debit cards. If you cannot provide this fee, it is possible to ask the court to waive it. You can file your papers in person at the Family Courts and Services Center during their office hours, by mail, or online.


The next step is crucial in getting a hearing for the minor in question. The parents/guardians and other parties involved must be “served” with copies of your legal papers. Both parents and/or legal guardians must be served, as well as the county court responsible for the situation. If you have a probation officer, they must be served as well. Note that many of these steps vary from county to county and state to state, so for specifics you should consult with a family law attorney. The papers must be signed by the parties in question when they accept the documents, and for those who will not accept, the documents must be hand-delivered by someone over the age of 18 who is not involved in the case. The minor in question cannot serve the papers themselves. Then, the minor will have to go to court so the judge can hear their case. It is best in this situation to be represented by an experienced attorney in order to have the best chance of winning your suit. Some tips from the Law Office of Frederic E. Waczewski, P.A. are to arrive at least 20 minutes early, in order to park, get through security, and find the courtroom. We expect you to dress professionally as if for a job interview to give the judge the best possible impression.


At the hearing itself, the judge will question the parties involved regarding everything discussed above, consider each aspect of your case such as financial independence and parental/guardian history and consent. If the judge does grant the request for emancipation, the minor will need to provide a Recommendation and Decree of Emancipation to the judge to sign. We recommend that the minor fils this form out ahead of time and bring it with them to the hearing in order to have the most efficient hearing process. Then, the final order will be served. If the judge does sign the Recommendation and Decree of Emancipation, the minor filing for emancipation must mail a copy of the order to every party served in the steps described prior. A Notice of Entry of Order must also be filed with the court in order to notify all parties involved, and it also functions as proof that you served everyone and complied with these requirements. Afterwards, the judge will sign the Recommendation and Decree of Emancipation, which is the document that proclaims the minor in question legally emancipated from the parties involved. This document must be mailed by the minor to all of the same parties that were served with legal papers involving the emancipation. Then, a Notice of Entry must be filed to notify everyone of the order and as proof that everybody who needs to be served has been served. After the judge signs the Decree and the minor receives their signed copy of the document, they must fill out the Notice of Entry of Order and then attach a copy of the filed Recommendation and Decree of Emancipation. The minor must then file the forms with the court and mail a copy of the Notice of Entry of Order along with the attached Decree to all of the same people served previously with the initial paperwork for the case. To complete the form, the parties served should all be listed in the “certificate of mailing” portion.


If emancipation is granted by the judge, the minor in question will be treated as an adult for most purposes. However, it is important to note that just because a minor is legally emancipated, they still must abide by certain age statutes. Emancipation absolutely does not let a minor under drinking age of the state purchase or consume alcohol, gamble or work at a gambling facility, or get married without judicial or legal guardian consent. This is called the Disability of nonage, as even legally emancipated minors do not enjoy all the same rights as legal adults in the state of Florida. In Florida, there are two singular exceptions to the disability of nonage. An exception can be made in that a minor can apply for emancipation if she is married due to pregnancy, and another exception notes that a 17 year-old minor may be legally emancipated in order to enlist in the military. These are situations for emancipation that can only follow through if the parents or legal guardians give full permission.


Contact Us Today


It is essential to keep in mind that a lot of these laws can vary according to where you live, and that legal emancipation is a complicated and difficult process, both legally and emotionally. It is best to talk things over with an attorney and have the lawyer guide you through the process, no matter what side of the case you are on. Call Orlando family law attorneys at the Law Office of Frederic E. Waczewski, P.A. for your free initial consultation today.

Pin It on Pinterest