Runaway laws in North Carolina

Emancipation in North Carolina

What is a Juvenile Emancipation?

A juvenile emancipation is a legal mechanism that frees a minor child from control of his or her parents.  It also frees the parents from certain responsibilities and obligations to the child.

What Does it Do?

An emancipation allows a child to freely conduct business as if he or she is an adult.   An emancipated minor can enter into contracts, buy and sell property and become a party to a lawsuit. An emancipated minor can also consent to his or her own health care treatment.

An emancipation also relieves the child’s parents of all legal obligations, such as child support.

What Does It NOT Do?

An emancipation is not the same thing as a termination of parental rights.  The child’s parents remain the child’s legal parents.  Despite emancipation, the child may still inherit from his or her parents.

An emancipation does not allow an exemption for age-based restrictions.  For example, an emancipated child in North Carolina may not buy tobacco until age 18 and may not buy alcohol until age 21.

How Can You Become Emancipated?

1. Get Married

North Carolina allows minors to marry under certain circumstances.  Marriage under these circumstances qualifies as an emancipation.

2. Court Order

A Court may enter an order of emancipation.  Once it is entered, the order is irrevocable.

Who Can File?

Any 16 or 17 year old who has lived in the same county or Federal territory in North Carolina for six months before the action is filed.

What Happens Once an Action is Filed?

The Court will hold a hearing.  Both sides will be able to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses.  It will be up to the minor child (the petitioner) to prove that emancipation is in his or her best interest.  The Court will look at the following factors to decide if it is:

  1. The parental need for the earnings of the minor;
  2. The minor’s ability to function as an adult;
  3. The minor’s need to contract as an adult or to marry;
  4. The employment status of the minor and the stability of the minor’s living arrangements;
  5. The extent of family discord which may threaten reconciliation of the minor with the minor’s family;
  6. The minor’s rejection of parental supervision or support; and
  7. The quality of parental supervision or support.

To issue a final decree of emancipation, the Court must find the following:

  1. That all parties are properly before the court or were duly served and failed to appear and that time for filing an answer has expired;
  2. That the minor has shown a proper and lawful plan for adequately providing for his or her needs and living expenses;
  3. That the minor is knowingly seeking emancipation and fully understands the ramifications of the act; and
  4. That emancipation is in the best interests of the minor.

See Article 35 of the NC Juvenile Code for more information.

If you are seeking or defending against an emancipation, you should speak to a family law attorney who is knowledgeable in this area of law. Contact us today to learn more about how to prepare your case!

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