Most teenagers aren’t considered adults until they reach the age of 18 and, even at this time, many still rely on their parents for financial support, decision-making support, or both. While the age of majority may be 18—which is the legal age at which a child becomes an adult—there are some situations in which a minor under the age of 18 may seek emancipation. Here’s an overview of what you should know about the emancipation of minors in Massachusetts and how our lawyer at the Law Office of Heather M. Ward can help. 

What Does “Emancipation” Mean?

The word emancipation is a legal term that refers to a situation in which a parent no longer has control over, or responsibility for, a minor’s life. As such, a minor who is emancipated can keep wages they earn from a job, make decisions about where they want to live, make their own healthcare decisions, and more, even if they have not reached the age of majority. 

Unlike in some other states, a minor is not automatically emancipated if they join the National Guard or get married in Massachusetts. However, doing either of these things may allow the minor to make certain medical decisions without their parents’ input. 

How Does a Court Determine Eligibility for Emancipation?

Interestingly, Massachusetts does not have a formal court procedure for determining emancipation. As such, there are no statutory guidelines that a court is required to follow to grant emancipation. With that in mind, a court is likely to consider the following:

  • Does the minor live at home?
  • If they live at home, do they pay rent?
  • Is the minor financially supported by their parents?
  • Is the minor working and earning their own income? 
  • Does the minor have the financial freedom to make purchases without parental consent?
  • Does the minor pay their own bills?
  • Does the minor have their own vehicle?
  • Do the parents list the minor as a dependent on their taxes?

In addition to these factors, a court may look at the reason why a minor is seeking emancipation. Petitioning the court for emancipation is most common in cases of abuse or neglect. However, the court may appoint a guardian rather than grant emancipation of the minor in cases such as these. 

Teens who are seeking emancipation usually do so because of difficult situations in the home. There may be other options to emancipation, though. Parents may allow a teen to live elsewhere or, if the teen is at least 14 years of age, they can nominate a guardian who will be responsible for care and seek their parents’ consent. If you are a teen who is living in a home where you are the victim of abuse, you should call the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families for support. 

Call the Law Office of Heather M. Ward for Help 

Emancipation of a minor can be a complicated legal process, especially since there is no formal process in place in Massachusetts. At the Law Office of Heather M. Ward, our experienced family attorney can help you to seek emancipation if appropriate, and can guide you through your other legal options. For help, reach out to Attorney Heather M. Ward directly today at (617) 903-8955 or send our law office a message online.