Emancipation is a legal process whereby a teenager gains independence from the parents or guardian. While sad, there are times when taking this legal action is in the teenager’s best interest. Since it’s a drastic measure, you need to seek the services of a qualified attorney when considering emancipation. If you cannot afford a lawyer, either the probate or juvenile court will appoint one at no cost.

As imagined, there are distinct criteria when filing for emancipation. For example, you must be at least 16 years of age, in the United States armed forces, or living away from the parents/guardian while managing finances. Of course, the court will ultimately decide if emancipation is best for you, as well as your parents/guardian.

Either you or your parents can start the emancipation process, but regardless, you definitely want to use the services of an attorney. If you choose emancipation, your lawyer will file a formal Petition for Emancipation with the court. Once filed, you and your attorney will stand before a judge to discuss the petition. At that time, the judge will hear the details of why you want to be emancipated and based on the information, order or deny the request.

Once emancipated, many of your legal rights and responsibilities change. For instance, you can live on your own, and will be responsible for paying rent, utilities, groceries, and other related expenses. You can also receive medical care, sign contracts, file lawsuits, get married, obtain a driver’s license, or attend college without needing permission.

You will no longer receive aid from the state’s Department of Children and Family Services if abused or neglected, although you will have access to different public services if needed. In addition, your parents and/or guardian are no longer responsible for providing you with money, a place to live, clothing, or food.

Choosing emancipation is a huge decision, and not to be taken lightly. One of the biggest challenges is for parents and/or a guardian who loves you and wants what is best. In this case, emancipation leads to hurt feelings that may take years or a lifetime to heal.

Working with an attorney who specializes in emancipation, you can determine if there is another viable solution. For example, if you’re pregnant and your parents want you out of the house, you can always go to a woman’s shelter designed specifically for young pregnant teenagers, or if you feel it is too dangerous to return home because of the current environment, you might be able to stay with another family member of friend.

However, if you find that emancipation is the only solution after exhausting all other options, you need an excellent attorney working on your behalf—someone who will answer questions but also provide guidance and support.